Haunting, by Rita Cannon
Reactions to horror movies are personal, maybe more so than with any other genre. Different people have different anxieties, hangups, and superstitions, so what scares the life out of one person can inspire skeptical eye rolls in another. There are a few different sources of creepiness going on in Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact, but at its heart, its a haunted house movie. I’ve personally never been very frightened by the idea of ghosts or hauntings, mostly because I’ve never had a paranormal experience and don’t entirely believe in them. Also, from what I’ve heard, ghosts rarely actually kill people, while living humans have been known to do it all the time. This is why the most shoddily put together serial killer movie can have me checking under my bed for days, while The Exorcist, as great as it is, doesn’t really scare me that much. It’s a testament to McCarthy’s talent as a filmmaker that The Pact scared me more than I thought this type of movie could.
Two sisters, Annie (Caity Lotz) and Nicole (Agnes Bruckner), are about to reunite for the first time in years following the death of their mother. Neither is thrilled at the idea of returning to their childhood home, the site of an apparently unpleasant and possibly abusive family life, but Nicole does so out of a sense of duty, and eventually convinces Annie to join her. But when Annie arrives, Nicole is missing – there’s no sign of her except for her cell phone, weirdly left on the floor in a closet. Soon Annie starts seeing the spectral image of a woman she doesn’t know – first in dreams, then in her waking life. By the time unseen forces start physically throwing her around the old house, she knows something is seriously wrong, and employs a local cop (Casper Van Dien) and a young medium (Haley Hudson) to help her figure out what.
The Pact takes its time revealing anything specific about the horrors that hide in the family’s house. For most of its running time, we don’t have a good idea what Annie is up against, which makes the slow trickle of clues that much more tantalizing, and the scary moments that much scarier. The twist ending answers some of these questions while also raising a whole lot of new ones. Much is left unexplained, including the precise nature of the titular pact. It’s not a perfect film. Most of the characters lapse into Stupid Horror Movie Behavior at least once or twice, and some of the open-ended plot elements, once you stop and think about them in the light of day, turn out to be regular old plot holes. But I’ll admit I didn’t think about them while I was watching the film – I was too busy gripping the arms of my seat.