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The Pact (2012)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/6/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/26/2012
Historically, horror movies (and off-shoots from the genre) are quite loud affairs. From Godzilla's roar to the famous music in Psycho to Leatherface's chainsaw to the various contraptions in the Saw movies, horror movies have been known to pair notable sounds with their vicious visuals. However, we occasionally get a horror film which focuses on being quiet. We've all experienced an awkward silence, and in the right hands, a director can take the absence of overt noises and actually put the viewer on edge. Why? Because we've seen horror movies before and we know (hope?) that something will eventually happen, and when it does, it could get loud. That's just one of the approaches which makes The Pact an interesting film.
Following the death of her mother, Nichole (Agnes Bruckner) returns home to go through her mother's effects and prepare for the funeral. She asks her sister, Annie (Caity Lotz), to join her, but due to bad childhood memories, Annie is resistant. Annie does come to the house, only to find that Nichole has disappeared, leaving their cousin, Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins), to look after her daughter. This childcare question puts a dent in Annie's plans to simply make an appearance at the funeral and leave town. Things get worse when another tragic event occurs in the house. As if this doesn't shake Annie's nerves enough, she is attacked by a poltergeist. She seeks help from the police, but only detective Bill Creek (Casper Van Dien) is willing to her help. Annie begins to investigate the history of the house and utilizes an acquaintance from high school who is rumored to be a psychic. This search reveals that a ghostly presence in the house is attempting to help Annie solve a decades-old mystery.
Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy has created an interesting hybrid film with The Pact as it combines elements of a family drama, a ghost story, and a murder mystery. Not only does he combine genres, but styles as well, as the camera moving through the cramped house is reminiscent of shots fromThe Evil Dead while there are also shades of Dario Argento as well. While all of this is going on, the overall tone of the film reminded me of a bleak indie film. Some of the individual parts of The Pact may not be unique, but the way in which McCarthy has blended them makes for a film which feels fresh. (Although, the second half reminded me of genre entries like The Changeling.)
However, The Pact's power comes from McCarthy's approach to the material. This is definitely a haunted house movie (amongst other things), but the film doesn't feature any of the typical genre trappings. The bulk of the movie plays like a drama -- as noted above, a very quiet drama. So, when the ghost throws Annie across the room, it's even more shocking because we certainly weren't expecting anything like that. Annie is a difficult character to like (which is one of the film's few flaws), but her reaction to the film's events have a realistic vibe to them, as she's very hesitant to get involved. The film takes an intriguing twist during the third act, when Annie realizes that ghosts may be the least of her worries. Here McCarthy shows that he can handle visceral scares as well as spooky ones.
McCarthy's twisty script and his skill behind the camera help to place The Pact ahead of the pack, but the movie's biggest secret weapon is the production design. Although the film is set in San Pedro, California, the interior of the house looks like every little southern house I visited in the 1970s. Using furnishings from the house used for The Pact short film, the crew has created a space which feels genuine. This helps to add to the understated feel of the movie. Having the setting feel like a house which could be in any neighborhood helps to makes the events more shocking. It's like a lower-middle class version ofPoltergeist. Fans of modern horror, which is all about loud, in-your-face shocks, may find The Pact dull, but if you appreciate a quiet, thoughtful horror movie, you'll discover a lot to like here.
The Pact gives coming out of the closet a whole new meaning on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC Films/MPI Media. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look natural and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, which is an asset, as the movie features many extreme closeups. The image's depth also works well, most notably in scenes where something eerie passes behind one of the characters. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Again, the movie has quiet moments, but when the movie gets louder, it's not obnoxiously so. The stereo and surround effects work well when highlighting sounds coming from inside the house. These effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. The subwoofer effects work well in certain scenes.
The Pact Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy. "A Haunting in San Pedro" (20 minutes) informs us that the movie is based on an 11-minute short made by McCarthy...so why isn't it included here? We get a clip from it, and that's all. So, we get an interview with McCarthy where he talks about how the short became a feature. He also talks about his history with and love for horror films. He talks about the decorations of the house and the value of the production design. We also hear from the cast who talk about their characters and their work on the film. The piece has a nice amount of on-set footage, and McCarthy's love for the project really comes through. The last extra is the TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012.