An overlooked gem from 2012, The Pact weaves an ever tightening noose around its audience as director Nicolas McCarthy skillfully blends serial killers, superstition and a potentially haunted house into a tense debut thriller. After a childhood spent making 8mm films and his 20’s and 30’s struggling to get a break in filmmaking, McCarthy made his debut feature at age 40 on a modest budget, and has steadily worked in Horror since, showing that a lifetime of avid movie watching pays off. The Pact strikes all the right notes in its tale of a sister’s disappearance and a family’s dark secrets, with smart writing, solid acting and a genuine sense of dread throughout it’s 80-ish minute runtime.
Tough biker chick / Final girl Annie (freckle-faced Caity Lotz, played with the right mix of toughness and naiveté) is called back home after a considerable estrangement to attend her abusive mother’s funeral, not yet knowing her sister Nicole (who made the call) has since gone missing. You see, after the call, Nicole saw a mysterious new door in their mother’s home, leading into a dark room, and walked inside, never to return. Annie comes to the run down suburban home and almost immediately strange things begin to happen, and secrets from the past involving Annie’s mother, a serial killer, and her own birth are uncovered. While the tropes are nothing we haven’t seen before, The Pact throws itself at them with complete seriousness, which gives the film its centre of gravity.
After the funeral, Annie meets Liz and Eva, her cousin and her daughter, respectively, and the trio return to Annie’s mother’s house. As night falls, Annie dreams of a man crying, and, while she sleeps, her phone lights up with a map, pinpointing an address. When Annie awakens and sees a figure in the hall, she enters Liz’s room and finds her bed empty. An unseen force tries to attack Annie, but she is able to escape the house with Eva.
Hiding out in Motel, Annie follows the clues the presence is pointing her to in a classic “well let me just google this shit” moment, and finds a photo of a decapitated woman. After a nightmare, again involving the crying man, she wakes up, extremely agitated. Accompanied by the “I don’t believe in this shit” local Cop Bill Creek (Starship Trooper’s Casper Van Dien , who’s dull performance is one of the films few let downs) , she returns to her mother’s house where they discover a secret room…. one which Annie has no memory of. As The Pact’s dread grows, she recruits her kooky spooky psychic friend, Stevie. As Stevie (played perfectly by Weeds’ Haley Hudson) tries to communicate with the house’s otherworldly occupants in the hidden room, she has a hysterical fit, repeating the name “Judas“. They then see the corpse of a woman in a floral dress floating above them, and Annie realizes with horror that it is not her mother haunting the house.
From here, the film races to a tense and ultimately satisfying conclusion, with a few twists we won’t give away. While mainstream critics largely overlooked this one (much as they always do), the horror community has given it second life, as it regularly appears on “the best films you haven’t seen lists” across the web. With solid performances, great atmosphere, music and cinematography, The Pact isn’t out to redefine horror, but rather continue the genre’s history with a simple, well made ghost story that manages to keep us rapt with attention until the final showdown with a unsettlingly realistic villain. With enough tweaks to the standard formula to stand out, The Pact is a great ghostly watch for 31 Days Of Horror! Check the trailer below and catch it on Amazon Prime.