The Pact (2012) – or – Casper Van Dien, the friendly ghost.

The first night of Toronto After Dark‘s summer screenings ended with a few chills and a pleasant twist as The Pact closed the night. Overshadowed by the evenings first film, Juan of the Dead, The Pact still managed to be a creepy good time.

When Annie (Caity Lotz) is asked by her sister to return to their childhood home for their mothers funeral, she reluctantly agrees. Once there, Annie can’t find her sister. Convinced that she’s left because of the stress of the situation, Annie doesn’t worry too much. When extremely strange things begin happening in the house, Annie becomes afraid that something terrible has actually happened to her sister. As she begins to explore the house, Annie turns up some dark secrets from the past.

While The Pact seems like a straight up haunted house flick, there’s actually much more going on. This can be both disappointing and exciting. Things certainly take an interesting turn about halfway through, but so much is made of the fact that this is a ghost story, the twist may turn some people off. Don’t worry too much, The Pact is still a haunted house flick, just not in the way that you might imagine. Since we’re dealing with spirits in a house, there are some very good scares early on. A good mix of the classic jump scare, complete with shrieking music, and the more subtle ‘there it is in the background but nobody sees it’ kind of chills that I enjoy, fill the first half.

Annie can't seem to escape from the spirits, no matter where she runs.

That mix of disappointment and excitement seems to fill this entire film. There seemed to be so many unanswered questions at the end, but the discussions that it’s led me to have been extremely intelligent and interesting. There are some very subtle suggestions surrounding the events in the film, and upon further discussion, would make a second viewing even more important. It just would have been nice to have a little bit more of an explanation in the film itself. Things happen quickly, and the story turns on itself even faster. It doesn’t leave much time for the viewer to really grasp the ominous undertone of the movie. Enjoy it once for the creepy visual style and frights, but visit it again for a much better understanding of the story and just how demented it truly is.

Haley Hudson stars as Stevie, a very creepy psychic that aids Annie in her search for answers.

I think this will be a film that continues to get better the longer that I think about it. This one would benefit from a quiet viewing at home. Strangely enough, we spent a part of our evening discussing how certain films play with a crowd and alone at home. While I do enjoy the hilarious pleasure of watching audience members jump out of their seats, much like they did for The Pact, I think this would have been much more frightening and unsettling at home. Writer/director Nicholas McCarthy does a very good job with his first feature film, and the future is sure to be bright for him. Had things been a bit tighter, I would be singing the praises of this film. For now, I would recommend a viewing at home on a dark night. It’s not fantastic, but the film is creeping through my mind, slowly causing me to want another viewing as soon as possible.

Under the marquee – Will

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