The Pact (2012)
After their abusive mother dies, Annie's sister Nichole disappears after leaving her young daughter with their cousin. Annie stays at her late mother's house, but soon starts to get attacked by an invisible poltergeist-like force. On top of this, the cousin also suddenly disappears, which attracts the attention of the police.
The story is all about the secrets within the family and the house itself, and as Annie tries to piece things together, clues are slowly and tantalisingly revealed. But after you've been drawn into what appears to be a straightforward ghost story, the final act pulls the rug out from under your feet, and goes in a completely different direction. This might divide viewers, but for me I thought it was an excellent twist.
The film incorporates new technology in an interesting way. For example, it features the four scariest words you would not want to hear during a 'skype' video chat - "who's that behind you?". A smartphone is used as a key prop, and websites, online mapping and 'streetview' type images are all used.
The attacks by the invisible poltergeist-like force are very effectively done, and the use of slow motion and music really adds to the drama and tension of the sequences. There were some startling jump scares that had me almost leaping out of my chair. The unsettling atmosphere throughout is enhanced by the haunting music (featuring lots of strings), and the use of silence (and ambient noise) at key points really builds tension in the right places. Caity Lotz gives a convincing and likable performance as Annie, and really throws herself into the role - quite literally in some scenes! Other notable performances are Casper Van Dien as the gravelly-voiced, unshaven, ice-cream eating cop, and Kaley Hudson gives a suitably fey performance as Stevie, the blind medium who looks like Morticia Addams in fluffy slippers.
There are only a few issues I have with the movie. At the opening, Annie, her sister and cousin are all pretty young women of similar age, and similar appearance, and until the characters are properly established, it's a bit confusing who's who. As the plot unfolds, the clues are always intriguing, but once or twice did seem a little too convenient. And the final, closing shot felt like a tacked-on cheap shock. But these are very minor quibbles that didn't lessen my enjoyment one bit.
However, things I particularly like about The Pact include the production design, particularly in the creepy family bungalow with its dated decor and all the religious imagery. I love how the story reveals itself slowly, but in a way that keeps the viewer intrigued. And I enjoyed the eerie tension and atmosphere throughout, and particularly in the climactic scenes.
This is an underrated and very interesting movie, which really hooks the viewer and draws you in. This was the second time I'd seen it, and even knowing the twist and the outcome, I didn't enjoy it any less.