For a feature debut, The Pact is an exceptional disappointment from writer and director McCarthy. He’s expanding on his exquisite short of the same name and it’s a flop.
He remakes the short (the Kevin Williamson teaser) and then continues its story, somewhat aware he’s in familiar haunted house territory and not willing to embrace the good things he’s got going.
Sisters Agnes Bruckner and Caity Lotz have recently lost their mother and have to deal with the house, a Southern Californian suburban ranch, and her funeral. Of course, the mother was terribly abusive and so it’s a bad situation. Sadly, we get all this information in the first few minutes, when McCarthy’s remaking his short, because he loves bad expository dialogue. And having Bruckner deliver it? It makes The Pact painful, especially for someone who knows how well McCarthy did with almost literally the same material in the short.
Things get better once Lotz enters the film. McCarthy’s narrative doesn’t, mostly because he keeps adding twists to perturb the plot. As a filmmaker, he’s sublime (his Blow-Up homage is lovely). His composition, his pacing of shots and actors… from a technical angle, The Pact is Hitchcockian.
Sadly, good technical doesn’t make up for grossly lacking narrative.
McCarthy gets a good performance from Lotz. Not great, but good. Similarly Casper Van Dien is good as her cop sidekick (ghost stories don’t need cops). Nice supporting work from Sam Ball and Haley Hudson.
I’m really bummed The Pact isn’t good.
Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy; director of photography, Bridger Nielson; edited by Adriaan van Zyl; music by Ronen Landa; production designer, Walter Barnett; produced by Ross M. Dinerstein; released by IFC Films.
Starring Caity Lotz (Annie), Agnes Bruckner (Nicole), Kathleen Rose Perkins (Liz), Haley Hudson (Stevie), Sam Ball (Giles) and Casper Van Dien (Bill Creek).