Caity Lotz in The Pact.

"Are you wearing MY favourite earrings?"

Release Date: 1 October 2012
2012 | 15 | 85 minutes | £15.99 (DVD)/£19.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: entertainmentone
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Cast: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Samuel Ball

This moody, well-made chiller (expanded from a 2011 short starring Firefly’s Jewel Staite) has many structural similarities with Ring, but never feels like a cheap facsimile of the film that kick-started the J-horror explosion.

There’s no ghost girl with hair combed over her face here. However, when Annie (the excellent Caity Lotz) reluctantly returns to her family home to sort out the estate of her abusive mother, she does end up treading the same sort of narrative path that Ring’s protagonist followed. A spirit is desperate to lead Annie somewhere, dropping a series of clues – old photos, a bunch of keys, an address. But as well as the central mystery, there’s an additional puzzle: if the ghost’s trying to help, why have Annie’s sister and cousin both gone missing, presumed dead, after spending a night in the house? And why does it appear to have a taste for pickles?

As in so many J-horrors, technology is a key element, with a pin spontaneously dropping onto the Maps app on Annie’s iPhone; when she checks it on Street View, she gets a spooky surprise… That’s just one of a good half-dozen jolt moments that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Many of these rely on old tricks (seasoned horror fans may even find themselves muttering predictions about what’s about to come) – but they still work. Although all the sinisterly flickering light bulbs do threaten to get on your wick. Time for a moratorium on that, please, horror filmmakers.

It’s a film built on a firm foundation of plausibility – well, at least until the didn’t-see-that-coming revelation in the final act. Annie is brave, but not to the point of idiocy. Her reaction when the ghost tosses her about like a rag doll sums it up: she runs straight out of the house; then runs back in on hearing the frightened cries of her young niece (thankfully, writer/director Nicholas McCarthy resists heaping on the syrup when it comes to that relationship). The story demands that Annie return to the house repeatedly, but the script cleverly forces her into a corner in such a way that you never end up howling with disbelief.

Often painfully tense viewing, if The Pact proves one thing, it’s that you can terrify without exploring original territory. Just one nagging question is left frustratingly unresolved: why that title, when the story doesn’t seem to involve any kind of pact?

Extras: The original 11 minute short (starring Firefly’s Jewel Staite) which the film was expanded from, and three featurettes.

Ian Berriman

For an alternate perspective, read our The Pact review from the theatrical release.
Read more of our DVD reviews.