After their mother passes away; sisters Nicole and Annie reluctantly return to their childhood home to pay their last respects. While staying overnight in the house; the sisters sense a mysterious presence in their midst: noises startling them in the night; objects moving about; a fallen picture of an unknown woman posed next to their mother. Annie begins experiencing a series of intense and disturbing dreams a visions that lead her to uncover something terrible about her motheras past that is finally revealing itself.
The ghosts of the past--both in the figurative and an alarmingly palpable literal sense--are at the heart of The Pact, an assured feature debut by writer-director Nicholas McCarthy. Viewers expecting the spook-show Sturm und Drang of bigger-budget horror efforts like Insidious or Sinister should be aware that The Pact initially unfolds like a thriller, as it follows a young woman's search for her sister and cousin, who have mysteriously disappeared while visiting her childhood home. Her investigation uncovers a supernatural force within the house that reveals an even more terrible secret involving her family. The measured pace of The Pact allows for considerable atmosphere and slow-building suspense that, in turn, provide for some genuinely unsettling high-voltage shocks in the more intense moments. McCarthy's careful balancing act of tone and outright terror is aided greatly by his capable cast, led by Caity Lotz (Mad Men) as the flinty heroine and featuring fine support by Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes), Agnes Bruckner, and Casper Van Dien, though Haley Hudson and Sam Ball make lasting impressions as a wraithlike blind psychic and her gruff handler, respectively. McCarthy also shows a keen eye for maximizing the haunting, lonely qualities of everyday places, from gloomy tract homes and rundown motels to the flat, grey landscape of the San Pedro locations, all of which bring the picture in line with such recent high-water marks from the indie side of the genre as The Innkeepers and Kill List, both of which draw memorable horror from ordinary locations. Included on the DVD is a 20-minute featurette with cast and crew interviews, as well as informative commentary by McCarthy, which explains the picture's transition from his short, which screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, to a full-length feature, as well as its stylistic influences and choices. --Paul Gaita