The Pact Reviews
You would think the extra running time would allow for some characterisation but in this regard the movie is paper thin. Despite losing her sister and friend, Lotz never seems too cut up. Likewise her niece is never seen grieving for her mother. Let's face it though, character depth isn't exactly a hallmark of the horror genre and if the movie is atmospheric or suspenseful it's something we can overlook. This is neither atmospheric nor suspenseful though, just dull and uninvolving. It's hard to care about Lotz as she barely seems to care about herself. She appears to be modeled on Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2" which seems an odd choice for what is essentially a haunted house movie.
As is far too often the case with the modern horror film, we get a twist ending. As is also common, the twist raises a tricky plot hole. In this case the supernatural presence does something to one character but not another which would make more sense. Other subplots drift in and out, adding nothing but padding to the story. We get a creepy young girl with psychic powers and an aging Van Dien as a cop whose role only seems to service a "Psycho" homage.
Like Ti West, McCarthy's classical directing style is a refreshing break from the usual jump scares and fast cuts of contemporary genre fare. This gives me some interest in where he may go from here. Unfortunately he shares West's major flaw, the inability to write an effective script. Hopefully he can realise this himself as West seems completely ignorant of this fact.
The Pact is admittedly not a new package of material. It mixes and matches elements of many classic and contemporary horror films - a non-traditionally haunted house, a Norman Bates style idea of interior decorating, a psychic somewhat bordering on psychosis and a main character haunted by things beyond ghosts. Though this could have been a total mess, it was held together by Lotz's strong performance (her portrayal of Annie reminds me a mixture of Ellen Ripley and Clarice Starling), very unique cinematography (unusual angles and images abound) and the atmosphere McCarthy managed to create in an otherwise normal LA ranch. Fans of Ti West's films (particularly the Innkeepers) will find this an interesting comparison, though it lacks the humor of West's films. Any fan of horror will find something compelling here though.
However, like many films with a somewhat similar starting premise, the Pact has difficulty balancing what's going on and making it make sense in the broader picture. Once the supernatural begins happening, the initial mystery of Nicole is sent to the back burner. The horror of coming home to a place you don't think of home is lost to a more explicit horror. Annie's psyche stands up remarkably well even in those moments when most of us would totally question our sanity. We don't see those weaker moments often and it detracts from the impact the film could have had.
Overall, the Pact delivers on suspense and chills. Lotz brings us along with Annie regardless if we want to go or not. In the end, while you could say that the plot becomes somewhat predictable, it's so artfully done you won't care. Bonus: the psychic scene is simply genius.