PAY THE GHOST (2015)
Supernatural thriller takes place in NYC on Halloween with busy dad Mike Lawford (Nicholas Cage) taking his young son Charlie (Jack Fulton) to a local carnival, after getting home too late to take him trick or treating. Charlie mysteriously disappears without a trace while standing right next to Mike and thus begins a year long quest to find out what happened to his son. Mike and his wife Kristen’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) search leads them to believe there is something supernatural involved, that links back to a Celtic legend that started hundreds of years before. As Halloween again approaches, is there any hope of finding Charlie alive?
While Pay The Ghost is actually well directed by Uli Edel and the performances from the cast are also pretty good, the flick is ultimately very routine as these thrillers go and Dan Kay’s script comes to a very hokey conclusion that wraps everything up in a nice little bow. There are some legitimately spooky bits here and there, but they can’t overcome the same tired old plot elements from most recent missing child and haunting flicks and the same old CGI phantoms. Using Celtic lore could have made this interesting, but it is carried out in a very bland and standard manner that could have used any cultural background without making a difference. An OK thriller if there is nothing else to watch and at least Nicholas Cage dialed it back a bit. Also features Stephen McHattie.
Ho-hum supernatural thriller finds couple Max (Josh Holloway) and Roxanne (Sarah Wayne Callies) participating in a kidnapping of eight year-old David (Blake Woodruff) after being turned down for financing on their dream project of opening a diner…makes sense! The boy turns out to be quite the little demon…literally…and soon Max, Roxanne and their partners (Joel Edgerton and Michael Rooker) find the tables turned on them, as the little monster uses his unnatural powers to off them one by one.
Written by Christopher Borrelli and directed by Stewart Hendler, this is a by-the-numbers ‘bad seed’ movie that is fairly predictable and it’s reveals are really no surprise. There is little suspense, though it is directed competently and the cast are…aside from vet Rooker…destined for better things and do perform well here. Young Woodruff is fairly creepy in the role of David, too and the cinematography is by the legendary Dean Cundey, so the movie looks great. Nothing really to recommend, though there is much worse you could watch and fans of certain cast members, like Callies and Edgerton, may want to see one of their earlier roles.
THE VATICAN TAPES (2015)
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Yet another exorcism horror that tells the story of Angela Holmes (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension‘s Olivia Taylor Dudley) one of the demonic cases being investigated by the Vatican. Angela was doing a blog article on the biblical story of the Antichrist and soon started to exhibit disturbing behavior. Convinced there is something demonic involved, a local priest, Father Lozano (Michael Peña) contacts his superiors at the Vatican to join the fight against what might possibly be the Antichrist itself.
On the positive side, director Mark Neveldine (The Crank flicks) does give this horror some atmosphere from Christopher Borrelli and Chris Morgan’s story and script, but the film is so cliché and gets so overblown by it’s last act, that he accomplishes little with it. We get every exorcism scenario in the book from dive bombing black birds, to the demonic voices speaking in another language, to contorting limbs from our victim. The film delivers nothing new nor uses the familiar tropes in a fresh or interesting way, so the film fails to get our attention. When it is revealed in the last act that Angela is the embodiment of the Antichrist itself, it just feels overblown and silly. The exorcism attempt by Lozano and Vatican Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) is tired and by the numbers and our open ending implying apocalyptic doom just makes us roll our eyes instead of hide them behind our fingers. It’s all been done before and quite a lot recently, so it is just routine and un-involving. The film lacks any of the energy of Neveldine’s Crank movies and it could have used some to wake us and the tired story up.
The cast is actually pretty good. Leading lady Olivia Taylor Dudley tries hard to look and act possessed and evil and if she were in a better film with better dialog we might have appreciated her efforts more. Peña is likable and solid as Father Lozano, but it is a cliché role as is Andersson’s Cardinal Bruun. Dijmon Hounsou appears briefly as a very concerned high level Vatican official and is also solid in a small role. Dougray Scott is a bit overbearing as Angela’s military dad, but that basically is the character. Rounding out is John Patrick Amedori as Angela’s boyfriend and Kathleen Robertson as Angela’s psychiatrist, while she is locked up for her increasingly violent behavior. Both their roles are fairly stereotypical.
Not much to recommend here. The film is of a subject that has become very routine in horror recently and done in a way that doesn’t freshen it up or make it interesting. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and tells a story oft told and told better. It has a good cast and a little atmosphere, but it’s not enough to recommend one sit through it.
2 cliché black birds.