Got a chance to view this in the privacy of my own home, before it's limited theatrical run, through Amazon streamed through my PS3. I am well aware that most of you who own PS3's or any capable device are likely already using this function, and I am in no way bragging about my ability to do so, I simply wanted to point out that technology is just fucking awesome, and I sincerely wish I was given this opportunity with way more movies.
Anyway, on to the movie. Throughout it's festival showings and such, The Pact has garnered quite a bit of attention, with audiences calling it "frightening", "freaking scary", and comparing it to things like "Paranormal Activity" and more recently "The Innkeepers". Well, it certainly isn't frightening, or freaking scary, and about the only comparison I saw to Ti Wests's wonderful Innkeepers is that there was a ghost, and both movies fit snugly into the "slow burn" category. The Pact shows promise in several places, but it's slow pace and several questionable plot twists kept it from achieving greatness.
The story is your typical ghost fare. Sisters Annie and Nicole are returning to their childhood home after the death of their mother. While Nicole has already arrived, it takes some convincing on her part to talk Annie into coming. She finally gives in, and when she arrives, Nicole is nowhere to be found. Strange things begin to happen, lights flickering, strange noises, and Annie begins to fear the worst when days pass and nobody has heard anything from Nicole. As she begins to investigate the strange occurrences, she uncovers some dark secrets from her family's past, and ends up fighthing for her life against the proverbial skeletons in the closet she uncovers.
That's a pretty generic plot summary, I know, but you don't really want me to spoil everything here, do you? As I said before, overall the story is pretty stale anyway. I actually was way more into it in the beginning, when I wasn't sure exactly what was happening. There were a few genuinely creepy moments, good use of atmosphere and tension, but unfortunately before long The Pact resorts to jump scares and completely took me out of it. Once Annie starts to slowly discover what's happening, and I do mean sloooooowwwwwly discover, I had all but become bored with it. The big twist at the end proves to be it's greatest transgression though, as it made me roll my eyes so far back into my head that I feared they would get stuck there. All in all, there really isn't anything even remotely original about this movie.
I normally don't make mention of a film's score in these little write-ups because I honestly don't really pay that much attention most of the time. I takes a particularly good, or in this case awful, score to get me to even notice. To be fair, it's not even the whole movie, it's one scene, when Annie first visits the Medium, Stevie. I have NO clue what exactly was supposed to be the idea here with the music, which was an overblown mixture of industrial metal mixed with what can only be described as microphone distortion and a bass line, and it was playing so loudly in the movie that I actually had to turn down my tv. Maybe it was an effort for Stevie to keep from hearing the voices or something? I don't know, but I didn't like it.
I've been almost all negative so far, so let's talk positives. First, camera work. I admit I've been paying way more attention to this lately and that's thanks in no small part to the movie reviews on "Back Online, Back On Duty". Sure, I know when a scene is shot well or not, but it's nothing that I particularly studied going into every movie I watched. The Pact has some impressive stuff going on in this regard though, particularly a couple of well done crane shots, and one really cool shot from behind Annie's ankle while she's riding her motorcycle. Nothing spectacular, but I did take notice. Performances, while Annie takes up most of the screen time and does a perfectly believable job, the big surprise came from Casper Van Dien as the pseudo-compassionate detective Creek. He doesn't turn in an Oscar-worthy performance or anything, but seriously, when's the last time you thought "Hey, Casper Van Dien was pretty good there."? What? Starship Troopers? Me too. Not much to talk about in the gore or effects departments, but there is some creepy make-up on display here, and it's done pretty well.
Overall The Pact turns out to be a pretty uneven experience. It seems like it tries too hard, and just when you think something cool might happen, it trips over it's own ambitions. It refuses to just be what it is. Still, I don't regret watching it, and recommend anyone who is into ghost flicks to give it a look. Worth a trip to RedBox, but I can't see any reason to ever revisit it. In fact, after you've seen it once, I can't imagine it would hold up all that well upon repeated viewings.