Posted June 1, 2012 by Ben Winkley in Films

The Pact

Horror movie makers are always looking for new ways of scaring people into spilling their popcorn.

Horror movie makers
are always looking for new ways of scaring people into spilling their popcorn.

But most things that can go bump in the night already have so The Pact, a tightly wound American
chiller, revisits some classics – a haunted house, a mystery and some

After the death of her mother, 20-something biker chick
Annie (Caity Lotz) returns to her
childhood home with a view to sorting out Mom’s legacy. The house has bad
resonance for her and she clearly doesn’t want to go back. A frosty
conversation with her sister Nicole (Agnes
), who’s already in situ, fills in everybody’s back-story in
short-order: Nicole’s drug related reliability issues and some bad stuff that
went down in the old family homestead.

But Annie goes along anyway, as people in horror films must.
By the time she parks her bike outside Mom’s, Nicole has vanished, leaving her
daughter in the care of a cousin, Liz (Kathleen
Rose Perkins
). But then, in the middle of the night, she too disappears and
the fun begins. Noises off, doors open and close and there’s clearly something
or someone else at home.

So far, so Silent House? But this isn’t backwoods, miles
from nowhere, hapless female quaking in the wilderness. This is suburban
anywhere – no spooky shadows cast by keening trees, just the polluted
Californian haze; the house itself a thoroughly unprepossessing bungalow, the
respectable exterior hiding horrible deeds done, a suburban trope.

Annie holds the key to the past, which – including unspoken
maternal abuse – is held in the claustrophobia-inducing walls that seem too
close together in the daytime and like a labyrinth at night.

Chills come fast and often – a little it’s-behind-you here,
a little violin g-string scraping there and an all-in performance by Lotz who
gets messed up physically and mentally. No shrinking scream queen, she gets up,
gets into it and gets involved. Bold and strong and freaking out, she’s a
muscular center to a taut movie.

Annie’s help around the
house comes from old school bussy, psychic Stevie (the otherworldly Haley Hudson), whose encounter with the domestic malevolence wrenches the secrets
out from the walls and is worth your time alone. Her brother psyche-out Creek
is played by Casper Van Dien, in a little B-movie “Where’d-I-see-that-guy
before?” cameo.

Writer-director Nicholas
McCarthy keeps things moving nicely, giving Annie ample time to face the true
nature of the unholy pact made in her childhood home.

Hang on to your popcorn.

Ben Winkley