Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Pact


  Most indie horror films suffer from either really bad acting, bad special effects, or a dumb story. I'll at least say it's rarely all three, but it's not beyond the worst of them. So I went into The Pact with low expectations and riding on nothing but a single positive review. Which was a good move because the movie turned out to be really solid. Starring Caity Lotz (The Machine) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), The Pact managed to really get under my skin. It's not a horror movie in the traditional jump scare sense, instead it builds this feeling of dread and mystery until it's almost unbearable. If this movie does anything exceptionally well, it's that.

  It's a simple movie, and it's all the stronger for it. It puts the main character through hell, and gives us more than enough reasons to root for her. It's a murder mystery, and a haunted house story, and quite a story at that. I don't wanna give anything away, but The Pact is no slouch when it comes to scares and suspense. Few movies put me on the edge of my seat so successfully, I'm pleased to report that The Pact delivers. Unfortunately, the plot meanders at some parts and being under an hour and a half as is, that's sort of inexcusable. This should've been tight as a drum, yet there's definitely some ho-hum parts. Even worse, there's some parts that just don't gel. These don't stick out so badly as to detract from the experience... but they are there nonetheless.

  Furthermore, Van Dien is a total waste. Don't get me wrong, the guy is one of my favorite cardboard cutouts. He's great when the role suits him. He'll never find a more tailor suited role than that of the square jawed, All-American, Johnny Rico. More recently he found his groove again, playing Johnny Cage in the second season of Mortal Kombat Legacy. A role that fit him like a glove and brought a smile to my face. However, he's wasted here. He plays a detective who has like... one scene with Lotz, and has a sob story to tell, then he wanders around and is ultimately written out of the movie rather suddenly. It's jarring. You wonder why Van Dien was even picked. The role could've gone to a total nobody and it wouldn't have made a difference. Van Dien isn't even on-screen long enough to be liked or disliked, so when his character is written off... we don't care. We wonder what the point was.

  Obviously, he's just a plot device. But despite his cardboard acting, Casper can be much more than that. Not unlike Channing Tatum, Casper's talent lies in snarky, humorous, self-aware, tough guy roles. A parody of himself almost. Here the role is so underwritten that he's merely a placeholder. It's a glorified cameo that I doubt anyone could get excited about. Not that it matters much anyways. Just like in The Machine (another movie you should really watch) Caity Lotz steals every single scene she's in. She's equal parts tough and vulnerable. A delicate balance that is really hard to pull off. Most tough girl roles are devoid of vulnerability, and they cross into this arena of machismo and silliness. Not unlike the brand of typecasting that's befallen Michelle Rodriguez, not that she seems to mind...

  Lotz avoids this though and gives us a protagonist who muscles through her fear and overcomes it, not only to save her life, but others. That's why she was so captivating to watch. She was terrified. We feel it. Yet she pushes on, into the shadows, back into the house, back into danger. Despite being afraid. That's some strong stuff. She's a fantastic protagonist that feels like a throwback to the heroines that would face off against the movie monsters of yesteryear. Heather Langenkamp, Sigourney Weaver, and Jamie Lee Curtis to name a few. It's commendable performance. She manages to pull off a lot, with very little. The same compliment can be leveled at the movie as a whole.

  It's not groundbreaking cinema. It's probably not going to make any top ten lists. Yet it does what it does exceptionally well. It manages to thrill and scare and keep us in suspense without showing all it's cards by the second act. It intrigued me. I couldn't predict the end of the movie, something which I've found painfully easy to do in the horror genre lately. It's a simple formula that is distilled into a very pure form. The story isn't a masterwork of twists and turns, but it's a chilling little mystery that kept me on my toes and got under my skin. It makes good use of computer effects, to the point where we almost don't notice them being used. We have to wonder what kind of effects are being used, if any at all... "Could that be a practical effect?" I honestly wasn't sure. At best, some wire removal. But whoever was orchestrating all of the effects did a superb job. They serviced the movie and didn't jump out as effect shots. It wasn't flashy, but it was damn sure effective.

  Just like the movie.

  The Pact wasn't flashy, but it was damn sure effective.
It gets a recommendation from me- with a grain of salt. (Over some popcorn, of course.)

No comments:

Post a Comment