Following the death of her mother, an independent-minded waitress named Annie (Caity Lotz, TV's Death Valley) returns with dogged reluctance to her childhood home — and that's before her sister (Agnes Bruckner, Kill Theory) and friend (Kathleen Rose Perkins, TV's Episodes) have vanished there.
As made perfectly clear by the cover art, a malevolent force is at work from within its unassuming walls, and I found its nature more sinister than any instance of Paranormal Activity. The less you know going in, the better; just know that writer/director Nicholas McCarthy proves uncannily effective with such stripped-down material, despite the feature being expanded from his own 11-minute short. I wish IFC Midnight had been able to include that work for comparison; all we get are a few glimpses within the "A Haunting in San Pedro" behind-the-scenes featurette.
There are two big surprises with The Pact. One is how jolt-inducing it is with a modicum of ingredients. The other is that, as the weathered police officer who aids Annie, D-list actor Casper Van Dien (Turbulent Skies) turns in a solid little performance. This is the best work I've ever seen him do; I hope it's just the start for McCarthy. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Episodes: The First Season DVD review
• Kill Theory DVD review
• Turbulent Skies DVD review