Film Review: The Pact

Though <i>The Pact</i> may be uneven, it&#8217;s an effective ghost story that&#8217;ll, uh, haunt you.

The best thing The Pact has going for it is the way it manages to play its cards right, despite the fact that it doesn’t have many aces up its sleeve. Given how almost everything here depends on action rather than suspense, you’d think writer-director Nicholas McCarthy would’ve had a hard time making a supernatural thriller like this work, but even the holes in its atmosphere add to the experience. Seeing as the house at the center of the whole thing is so quiet that nearly every corner seems mundane, finding out there’s evil afoot can be quite a shock, to say the least.

Then again, considering how much time Annie (Caity Lotz) spent growing up in this place, it figures her homecoming as an adult would make her uneasy, particularly after the death of her mother. On top of everything, she can’t get in touch with her sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner), and starts to worry after tracking down a cell-phone she inexplicably abandoned. Annie reminds herself that she pulls off these disappearing acts all the time—something cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins) learned when she ended up taking care of Eva (Dakota Bright), the girl Nicole gave birth to.

It’s plain to see that she and Annie have plenty to talk about after the funeral’s over and Liz takes Eva to her mother’s house, but the family reunion hits a snag when Annie wakes up and finds Liz gone. Between two disappearances and the ghost she unexpectedly makes the acquaintance of, she’s got all the reason she needs to grab Eva and head to the police station to explain everything to Officer Creek (Casper Van Dien). As skeptical as he is, he joins her for a drive to her mother’s house to see what all the fuss is about...and discovers there’s more to this place than meets the eye. Nevertheless, since there isn’t much he can do except take pictures, she’ll have to go out on a limb by asking a ghost whisperer (Haley Hudson) to find out what business a spirit would have in a place as unspirited as this.

While McCarthy’s to blame for the shortage of ambiance here—as well as the uncertain motive one character has for tying up an unconscious candidate for murder, who apparently needs to be awake for the slashing to begin—he musters intrigue through efficient shots that allow viewers to discover everything rather than lead them by the hand. He gets engaging performances out of the cast, too, even if Lotz occasionally acts as though the action’s happening around her rather than to her. Still, that’s one luxury The Pact rarely lets you have.