The second film to screen at the 2012 Toronto After Dark Summer Screening was The Pact, director Nicolas McCarthy’s debut feature. The film is an unconventional scary ghost story that has an unexpected twist towards the conclusion of its storyline. Although it’s a low budget cross genre of horror and mystery, the film successfully brings out those perfectly timed chills and thrills that we have seen play out in such familiar ghostly hauntings such as Amityville Horror and Paranormal Activity.

Nicole Barlow (Agnes Bruckner, Blood and Chocolate) returns to the family house after her mother’s death to take care of her belongings and other things and it’s here when we first witness the looming ghostly presence that haunts the house. Nicole calls her sister Annie (Caity Lotz), a strong headed biker chick, who refuses to come to help take care of funeral arrangements for their deceased estranged mother with whom they had a rough childhood growing up with. Later on during a Skype conversation with her daughter we get to see the first signs of interference as Nicole eventually loses the signal and sees a closet door open off its own accord. This is the night that Nicole disappears and where Annie comes into the mix, pretty much leading the rest of the film as she arrives at the home to discover her sister is missing. At first Annie does not make much of it because of Nicole’s irresponsible past behaviour, that is until she gets the first taste of a paranormal encounter in the house. One of the best things done in this film is when we see Annie flee the house upon her first such encounter as opposed to what you usually see happen in a regular horror film where the stupidity of messing out with the unknown completely boggles my mind. Light on dialogue, the strength lies in the setting of the house which is quiet, dry and dark. It makes just even being inside ideally cold and creepy, especially when Annie begins to see and hear strange noises, flickering lights, falling objects and a certain GPS mapped location on her phone. However, the big difference in this film is that all the unusual activity that takes place has a meaning that leads up to (although not perfectly due to a couple loose plot holes) connect with the missing puzzles of the picture.

We see most of the film through Annie’s lens and Caity Lotz delivers a strong performance through her emotions, expressions, reactions, and body language; something that as of recently I saw done quite well by Daniel Radcliffe in certain scenes of The Woman in Black. The perfectly utilized supporting acts of Casper Van Dien as a police officer and Haley Hudson as a blind psychic who are both brought in towards the final acts of the film after Annie seeks out help to figure out what is going on in her mother’s haunted house. Through the psychic medium’s help and the eventual overcoming of initial disbelief and ignorance, Annie begins to realize that the ghostly encounters are not an attack on her but are merely attention-seeking and trying to connect with her; eerily reminding me of events that we saw in The Haunting. The result is the discovery of a room that she never knew existed which then leads up to the final story reveal which is a complete shift from the tension and anxiety that had been built up throughout the first half of the film.

The experimental mix of genres may not appeal to everybody’s taste but surely it was a step forward in providing both standards. It had perfectly timed scares as well as adding something completely new and fresh to the usual run of the mill scary Friday night paranormal thriller which definitely makes it worth the watch.

Feel like you missed out? Don’t fret! Be sure to check out the next set of spooks that will hit the Bloor Cinema on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, there’s Detention, a horror cult comedy and some scary found footage in V/H/S, starting at 7PM.

-Myra Rehman


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