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