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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

THE PACT (2012) and the New Direction of Horror

Family can be a real burden...

3.5 Stars

Is it just me or have the countless horror sub-genres been becoming more and more indistinguishable? Since the 90s, horror has been being discussed by academics as apocalyptic, reactionary, postmodern, transgeneric, etc. But lately I have been wondering if the diverseness of the American horror is withering, if the genre is not in some kind of melting-pot phase within which desperate attempts to be original only spawn convoluted plots. In the days of black and white, Universal monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s Creation used to clearly represent the threat of the Other in relation to race/class. And of course there were also the brilliant suspense films, specialized in by the unmatched talent of Alfred Hitchcock. After Psycho and into the 70s and 80s came the modern Slasher flick which by the 90s had taken form as a who-dun-it mystery, maintaing its dedication to blood and nudity. Ghost movies were always popular, but the paranormal phase has definitely reached a new level of demand with the recent craze for the “found-footage” film. So what now? 

It seems a lot of horror filmmakers have taken to the art of trickery; betraying the viewer. Horror films are getting more and more difficult to define, label, or even explain - how many times have you tried to talk about a movie and said “it’a kind of a ghost story, but...” ? 

I have been saying that quite a bit lately. So, The Pact - It’s kind of a ghost story, but... There is also a flesh and blood bad guy. 

And this is pretty much the direction horror has been moving in. This week alone I have witnessed it in this film, Haunter, and The Invoking, all of which are releases from the last year or two. Generally speaking, this blending of horror elements does make for pretty perplexing plots (convoluted, as I mentioned earlier), but this doesn’t mean they can’t come together nicely by the end. The Invoking does not, so don’t waste your time, but The Pact really does do a pretty good job at making the pieces fit.
Resisting the return home for her mother’s funeral, Annie finally gives in to her sister’s guilt-trip, only to find the house is empty; her sister has vanished. Convinced the stress of their mother’s death and revisiting painful childhood memories has simply pushed her sister back to drugs, Annie remains in the house awaiting her return. Only she won’t return. This becomes clear when what seems to be a malevolent spirit attacks Annie and leaves her no choice but to investigate her mother’s past - she could leave, but then she’d be giving up on her sister and failing her niece.... plus, the movie would be over pretty quickly.

Even though the story puts itself together quite slowly and in something of a roundabout manner, the film has some great moments in terms of creepiness and surprises. And the closet scene is a nice nod to Halloween. 

So while I'm unsure of what to make of this new direction, I can appreciate it when it works.