DVD Review: The Pact

Posted on July 12, 2012 by editor

Review by Annie Riordan

Death is the great equalizer, and funerals are not for the dead, but rather for the living. It’s an opportunity to show the deceased the respect owed them, to reflect and forgive, and to pray for the salvation of the soul, both your own and that of the deceased. It’s a chance to show yourself humbled and to acknowledge that, despite whatever differences you may have had in life, you can forgive the sins of the flesh and rejoice in the homecoming of the spirit.

I call bullshit on that crap. And so does Annie Barlow.

Annie sees no reason why she should come to her mother’s funeral. The woman was a cold, abusive, pinch-faced old bitch who made the lives of both Annie and her sister Nicole a living hell. Ding Dong the miserable cunt is dead and good riddance, as far as Annie is concerned. And I agree. We owe the dead nothing they didn’t earn. Not even respect. You reap what you sow, and if reincarnation is for real, I hope the majority of my family come back as feeder mice.

None of Nicole’s guilt-tripping seems to be having the desired effect, and Annie stands firm on her promise to never again set foot in her mother’s house, funeral and public opinion be damned. But then Nicole goes missing, and Annie is forced to make the trip to San Pedro to find out what happened. At first it seems like Nicole, a former junkie, has simply gone off the rails again. But she’s left her possessions behind this time: laptop, cell phone, daughter, etc. She’s also a no-show for the funeral that she so stubbornly insisted both she and Annie attend. Annie and her cousin Liz return to the old house that night with little Eva in tow, unsure what to do next.

The decision is made for them when Liz disappears from her bed and a hostile ghostly presence forces Annie and Eva from the house. Now there are two women missing, vanished without a trace, and the cops don’t believe Annie’s tale of ghosts for one second. Left on her own to figure this weird shit out, Annie finds herself dogged by an infuriated poltergeist who wants Annie to know of the horrors hidden in her mother’s house, and of the horrors that are still taking place there.

I love a good ghost story, especially a ghost story whose ending I cannot figure out in the first five minutes and which genuinely scares the crap out of me. The Pact managed to do both. Do you have any idea how very rare that is? Original stories are on the verge of extinction in the world of horror films, although I cannot be the only hardcore Lovecraft fan who failed to catch the parallels between this film and HPL’s “The Lurking Fear.” Whether or not the similarity was intentional, I don’t know. I also don’t care. I AM still wondering though if the two major character names – Barlow and Glick – were a nod to Salem’s Lot. Not that it’s important. I just like catching little things like that.

And there’s a lot of little things like that to catch in this film. As soon as it was over, I backed it up and watched it again, scanning for all the subtle little clues I’d missed the first time around. I’m still finding them. It’s rare that I’ll watch a film repeatedly, but this is one I’m happy to now own as I will be watching it again. And again.

With the exception of Caspar Van Dien, I’ve never seen any of these people before. But they all turn in impressive performances, absorbing their roles completely. And why the hell isn’t Haley Hudson – who here plays a sweet, blind psychic girl – famous yet? She’s intensely gorgeous. In fact, everyone in this film is uniquely, startlingly beautiful in the most unconventional of ways. Against the stark, bleached out Polaroid beauty of the film, they stick out like sentient Van Goghs: slightly flawed, sharpened by sorrow, bright as hard candy.

If I have one gripe about the film, it’s the very end. It felt tacked on and forced and did not flow with the rest of the film. But if you stop the disc on the last fadeout of Annie’s face and pretend it ends there, this movie is warped perfection. Intriguing, beautiful and scary as hell.