Saturday, 9 June 2012



It's a little over a year since Insidious thoroughly and delightfully terrified the living doodahs out of me by simply placing its unknowable paranormal phenomena into a believable domestic setting. It didn't have the Hollywood gloss of Poltergeist or the increasingly idiotic CCTV gimmick of the Paranormal Activity series, but it conjured up far more persuasive chills thanks to the more familiar milieu. Few (if any) of us live in Castle Dracula or Hill House so those movies have a more fantastical feel to them; we're more likely to live in Flat 5A or 17 Something Road, thus we connect more to fictions set there.

In no way is The Pact anywhere near as effective as Insidious although for its first half it manages some superbly creepy sequences in which something horrible might loom out of the darkness at any moment, and I'll admit I covered my eyes several times. Waitress Annie (Caity Lotz) returns to her childhood home, not for the funeral of her late abusive mother but because her sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) has inexplicably disappeared. Is there something else, spiritual or physical, in the house? Rather than simply leg it (which is probably what I'd have done), she enlists the help of an old schoolfriend (who fortunately happens to be psychic) and cop Casper Van Dien to investigate....

The first half of the movie has lots of scenes with the camera slowly prowling the gloomy house - a house that looks genuinely lived in rather than a designed soundstage - and presents us with a group of believable looking characters who don't have the glamorous Hollywood sheen about them: they look, sound and behave more like real people you'd sit opposite on a bus rather than the Scarlett Johanssons of this world (to pick a name at random). It's a pity that the movie goes completely loopy in the second half, merrily throwing in serial killers, visions, spooky photographs, secret rooms, Google StreetView, ouija boards and heterochromia (look it up); if they'd kept it at the more low-key level of foreboding suspense it would have been better than the grab-bag of unlikely mayhem it reduces to. Worth seeing for the first half but it doesn't maintain the chills throughout.


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