Tag Archives: Nicholas McCarthy

The Pact (2012, Nicholas McCarthy)

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.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

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).


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The Pact (2011, Nicholas McCarthy)

From the first few seconds of The Pact, one thing is clear—McCarthy has amazing composition and editor van Zyl knows how to cut. The first half or so of the short is a conversation between a brother and sister, played by Sam Ball and Jewel Staite, respectively. Two more things become clear as the conversation progresses.

First, McCarthy writes great natural dialogue. The details of the film slowly come out over the beginning over the conversation, never forced. Second, he knows how to direct actors. For the conversation, the majority of Staite’s performance is physical, how she tilts her head, what her eyes communicate. Ball gets the flashier lines.

Then the film changes, becoming something uncanny, while still retaining the reality. McCarthy introduces the idea in the conversation, then carefully shows it.

The Pact’s single problem is a fast dolly for emphasis. Otherwise it’s perfect. McCarthy’s a fantastic filmmaker.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

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 Sam Zuckerman; released by The Farmer Company.

Starring Jewel Staite (Anna) and Sam Ball (Adrian).


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