Nicholas McCarthy brings his previous short film (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011) to its full feature potential at the 2012 DIFF. It’s all sorts of eerie and scary, though not so much straight up horror The Pact is more of a horror mystery. It’s the blending of those two genres that make this extremely atmospheric work on many levels. In short it’s entirely effective and well crafted. In a way it’s fitting that it is being shown at the same Festival where master of horror Takeshi Shimizu is screening his film TORMENTED. Could make for a great Double Feature.
Annie and her sister have begrudgingly returned home for their mother’s funeral. But as her sister goes missing sorting our their mother’s affairs, Annie finds that something is not right at home. As she struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother’s death, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home. Isolated and afraid, Annie uncovers clues and questions about a past she never knew existed. To find answers she seeks both professional and supernatural help and slowly peels back the layers of a long dormant family nightmare.
One of the most terrifying things is the fear of the unknown. In the case of Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact it’s that when something is after you you’d at the very least like to know what it is. To poor Annie she just can’t tell what she’s contending with. Is it a ghost, is it real, or is it both? That frightens her perhaps the worst of all. Likened to a Japanese psychological horror film (again, one reason Tormented is referenced above) The Pact is about deep seeded family secret. Also, like a can of worms, once it gets out there’s really no going back to the way things used to be. Sometimes it’s your (or your family’s) past that manifests as the film’s heavy.
McCarthy knows how to ramp up the tension and his taught film blends physical terror with spiritual and psychological horror very effectively. He builds suspense behind the camera but in front of it Caity Lotz carries this film all on her own. Likened to Rosemary’s Baby, The Woman In Black, White Noise, or even Silent House, this is nearly a one man (woman rather) show. Relative newcomer, Lotz is an extremely gifted and convincing actress. She seems to channel Jodie Foster’s poise as well as her vulnerability. Shes tough but not made of stone. The more secrets she unravels about her mother and really her family’s past the scarier things become as she telegraphs fear with her vibrantly colored eyes. When the tension mounts in the final scene don’t be surprised if you find yourself holding you breath along with Annie and right on into the credits.
The total package, The Pact is tense, focused and scary as hell. No frills here, just solid filmmaking that’s about essentials and core elements. In a way this almost like the kind of movie you’d get if David Fincher made a ghost story thriller. Not an exercise in terror (it’s dialed down just enough to keep the theater seats clean) but a compelling and frightening detective story. Not for everyone as there’s a reason this film screened as part of the “Midnight Specials” but we can’t wait to see the level of scares McCarthy is set to unleash in his next effort.