In the manner of the Ourorboros, the snake which consumes itself, perhaps more than any other film genre it is horror which suffers from that most pervasive Hollywood horror of its own: the unnecessary sequel. Marked by an intelligent script and confident performances, The Pact was an unexpected surprise of 2012, a film where the supernatural aspects served as the window dressing of a more conventional serial killer thriller, the hunt for the assailant known as Judas.
With original writer/director Nicholas McCarthy working on his new project At the Devil’s Door, he has been replaced by Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, a duo whose previous works do not immediately trigger significant recognition but who have admirably retained the slow burn of the original film, though their inexperience shows in the jarring interruptions of the sepia toned dream sequences/visions which repeatedly punctuate the narrative to illustrate points which would be more unnerving and insidious if introduced with subtlety.
A talented aspiring artist, June Abbot (True Blood’s Camilla Luddington) supports her ambition by working as a trauma site cleaner, on hand with rubber gloves, mop and bucket whenever the police homicide team determine they have gathered sufficient evidence from a crime scene.
The sunshine outside contrasting the grimness within, one such scene is the apartment of Ellie Ford whose murder FBI agent Ballard (Patrick Fischler) believes to be the work of a copycat inspired by the Judas killings, a case he profiled for twenty years in lieu of developing social skills, though with a chilling variation: the body was decapitated and the head kept as a trophy.
Having already irked local police officer Daniel Meyer (Once Upon A Time’s Scott Michael Foster) by his unannounced arrival at the Ford crime scene he further intrudes upon his time by visiting Daniel at home, though Ballard’s purpose is actually to inform Daniel’s girlfriend June that he believes that she may be the next target of the copycat killer due to her connection with Judas through her mother.
Unable to think of any relation her recovering addict mother Margaret (Amy Pietz) might have to the Judas killings, Agent Ballard bluntly says it is her birth mother Jennifer Glick he is referring to, one of the original Judas victims. Realising that June had no knowledge that she was adopted, Ballard leaves the couple but as he leaves he catches sight of June’s art which bears a striking resemblance to Ellie Ford, a woman June said she had never seen before.
While much of the film plays too closely on the same riffs as the original, the hints of something hidden in the walls or beneath the floorboards, the sense of June being unsafe in her own home is pervasive and the simple use of shadow in one scene is genuinely hair-raisingly creepy, though ubiquitous flickering lights presaging a visitation, the telekinetic force of the unseen spirits and the candle-lit exploration of the attic space are tiresome distractions designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten.
Strong, smart and unfazed by blood, June is no pushover and refuses to be intimidated by Agent Ballard even when it is apparent that she is his prime suspect, and when she manages to contact Annie Barlow (Caity Lotz, best known for The Machine and as Arrow’s Canary reprising her role), the woman who finally killed Judas, they make a formidable team, and remaining true to the first film the supernatural is only a conduit through which the tale is initiated, with the resolution brought about by the determination of the characters.
With the gentle and loyal Daniel admitting “things get complicated,” as the pieces are shoehorned into place the plot does become increasingly far-fetched but thanks to last minute revelations manages to pull through to the finale relatively intact, though the indication of a possible third in the series only reaffirms, as if it needed to be stated, how little a further continuation is actually required.