A horror movie in only the loosest sense, writer-director Nicholas McCarthy's The Pact is actually more of a psychologically rooted chiller, in which the dark, repressed memories of a turbulent and unhappy childhood come bubbling to the surface. Whether its disturbing twists are meant to be taken literally or as intense manifestations of trauma is a matter of debate up until the final reel, and then even afterward.
Following their estranged mother's death, Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) leans on her sister Annie (Caity Lotz) to return to their childhood home and help settle her affairs. Annie is reluctant, but when she arrives, Nicole is nowhere to be found. After the funeral, a series of unnerving events follows — noises in the night, objects moving about, and then more even powerful paranormal disturbances. Annie reports her sister's disappearance to the police, and also discovers a hidden room in the house. Further digging then leads her to more revelations about her mother's past.
Though it's his feature debut as a filmmaker, McCarthy's movie is based upon a short of the same name, and his familiarity and level of thought, investment and comfort with respect to the material is evident. There are echoes of the same sense of weighty familial and inter-generational guilt explored in movies like Steve Kloves' Flesh and Bone, from 1993, and 2001's Frailty, directed by Bill Paxton, and McCarthy also possesses a good grasp of effective, tension-building technique. The low-key production design and level of attention to detail is also superlative. If some of its narrative pivots come off as a bit fantastical as The Pact winds its way to its conclusion, the performances help hold an audience's interest. Lotz is a solid guide on this journey, and the troubled Annie's quest invites considerable sympathy. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (IFC Midnight, unrated, 91 minutes)