Friday, 23 October 2015



This is one of those movies that's the most difficult to review at any length: it's not great, it's not terrible, it's just one of those mid-ranking films that's okay, perfectly entertaining, enjoyable without necessarily being impressive. It's unremarkable but fun, it's uninspired but well put together, everyone involved has done much better work elsewhere but it's nowhere near their worst either.

Pay The Ghost is a very silly but more than watchable horror movie in which literature professor Nicolas Cage (yeah, right) loses his son at the Halloween carnival when the kid disappears into thin air. Unwilling to accept it (or the blame for it), Cage researches every missing child and unearths the existence of a curse placed on the town whereby three children will be stolen every Halloween by a witch's spirit as restitution for the three children murdered by witch hunters three centuries ago. Yes, that's the plot. Can Cage find a way to (literally) cross over to the other side and free his son in the last few hours before this Halloween and three more disappearances?

It's absolute bunk, but it's reasonably well-mounted bunk and far more enjoyable than you'd expect just glancing at the artwork in the Sainsburys DVD aisle; it's a shame the film is not getting a proper cinema release. It's decent looking, there's a score by horror veteran Joseph LoDuca (he started out on the original The Evil Dead), and even though he sometimes (more than sometimes) turns up in absolutely terrible movies, Nicolas Cage is always watchable, though he doesn't get to do his shouty bug-eyed freakout routine this time out, which is perhaps a pity. Against that, it's pretty clunky: there's a vast slab of "Legend has it..." exposition that's lowered in towards the end at precisely the right time, and while it's efficiently creepy in places (owing something to the likes of Insidious), it goes for the easiest horror technique of sudden loud noises and scary faces in close-up rather than trying to make anything genuinely chilling. Once it gets to the somewhat ludicrous finale, the movie borrows again from Insidious - this time it's riffing on The Further as the spectral realm where Cage has to try and get his boy back.

Pay The Ghost really isn't anything special but as a Friday night rental or an impulse Netflix selection it'll do the job. It's directed by Uli Edel, but we're a long way from Christiane F and The Baader Meinhoff Complex: this is not a film of character depth or development, it's not a film of style and subtlety, and absolutely no-one is going to think it was overlooked come next year's awards season. Sometimes silliness is what's required, but at least it's not the silliness of Cage's The Wicker Man.


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