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I really enjoyed Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact. It was a spooky little movie with some nice surprises and well-acted by it’s small cast. Obviously, I was hesitant that they were making a sequel without McCarthy’s involvement and while The Pact 2 doesn’t come close to the original, it was a moderately entertaining supernatural thriller.
The story takes place after the events of the last film and focuses on pretty crime scene cleaner June (Camilla Luddington) who is also an aspiring illustrator. June is having dreams about a woman named Ellie (Suziey Block) who is the recent victim of, what appears to be, a Judas Killer (Mark Steger) copy-cat. Without realizing it, she is drawing her dreams and revealing Ellie’s fate in her work. Worse still, an eccentric FBI agent (Patrick Fischler) feels she might be in danger due to a shocking connection to the original killer and one of his victims, Jennifer Glick. Finding no comfort from her policeman boyfriend (Scott Michael Foster), June turns to the one person who might be able to help, Annie Barlow (Caity Lotz), the woman who finally took the Judas Killer down. But, can either escape this new and unknown serial murderer…or the vengeful spirit of the original Judas Killer?
Written and directed by Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, this unnecessary sequel does have some spooky moments but, also gets a little convoluted by it’s end. Overall, it was moderately entertaining but, the writers do stretch things a bit to get their new character June, connected to the Judas Killer and it’s a bit cliché. Of course, having a policeman boyfriend and an FBI agent around is of no use to her and she has to investigate things on her own and with the help of Annie. This conveniently puts them both in harm’s way and even Ellie’s spirit giving them clues, doesn’t bring them all that closer to the killer. As for the copy-cat reveal, it comes out of nowhere and is there to add shock value and not make real sense. What helps the film is that, as directors, the pair do give the film some atmosphere and there are some genuinely spooky moments, as June is haunted by both, victim Ellie and serial killer Judas.
June is an interesting character and thought the rest of the cast are a bit flat, Luddington and the returning Caity Lotz are both likable and we wish the film had focused on their teamwork a bit more. Patrick Fischler’s FBI agent Ballard seems to only exist to provide exposition and suspicion and Foster’s cop boyfriend pops in and out of the story when needed. Like the original film, this focuses on a small central group of characters, mostly on it’s leading ladies.
So, this sequel passed the time and I was never bored though, there was little fresh or innovative. The filmmakers are far better directors than writers, as the script is a bit convoluted and cliché but, the film is atmospheric and has some creepy moments. Lead character June is likable as is Camilla Luddington in the part and it was nice to see Lotz return. There were some familiar faces and links to keep this from being a completely detached sequel though, we wish McCarthy had some involvement to make things mesh a bit better. Overall it’s worth a look but, go in with moderate expectations and don’t expect an equal to the enjoyable and spooky first film.
Need a little variety for your Halloween viewing this year? These are 25 lesser-known, overlooked or more obscure horrors from recent years that certainly are worthy of a spot on your movie playlist for the upcoming Halloween season!
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I am a fan of writer/director Nicholas McCarthy’s first feature, the surprisingly effective The Pact. It had it’s flaws, but it was very spooky, used some familiar horror conventions well and had a few surprises. When I heard he was working on a second feature, originally titled Home, I was anxious to see what he had up his sleeve next.
Now re-titled At The Devil’s Door, McCarthy brings us another tale of supernatural horror this time involving a demonic entity and those who have the misfortune of coming into contact with it. The film opens in the 80s with a young woman (Ashley Rickards) playing a strange game with an equally strange man (Michael Massee) in the middle of the desert for $500. She wins and is thus told she has been ‘chosen’ and to her horror, she realizes an evil presence has now followed her home. We cut to modern day where realtor Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is tasked to sell a house in foreclosure. The same house that once housed the girl we met from years earlier. But there is a dark presence still within in that empty home which has now targeted Leigh and her younger sister Vera (Glee’s Naya Rivera). And the more the history of the house and those that lived there is looked into, the more danger the sisters appear to be in from a malevolent force that has now ‘chosen’ one of them.
Much like with The Pact, McCarthy crafts a very unsettling chiller that is not without a few flaws, but certainly the spooky goods far outweigh those flaws. Again he uses some very familiar horror movie trappings, but uses them well. It’s a creepy mix of Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and with a touch of Paranormal Activity. It also reminded me slightly of Oculus from earlier this year, as it did employ flashbacks to fill in blanks in the story and briefly involved a mirror, but I believe that is purely coincidental and the overall story is quite different. McCarthy creates some very chilling atmosphere and his simple old school visual style is quite effective in enhancing that. I liked that his FX are mostly done in camera with good old fashion smoke and mirrors and the man certainly knows how to build tension and gives us a few good scares. The film’s flaws come in that the story sometimes jumps forward giving the impression that certain plot elements where achieved a bit too easily or persons found too quickly. And as such, they don’t resonate as much as they could when they seem to come about with so little effort. We could have used a bit more of the investigation aspects of the story so things had the illusion of some degree of difficulty to increase their dramatic weight. I’m also not sure I quite bought certain elements that set up the last act, but to discuss details would be unfair to those who want to go in knowing as little as possible, which I recommend. Suffice to say there are a few little plot holes that might evoke some questions, but nothing detrimental to the overall effect of this very unsettling film. There is also some nice cinematography by Bridger Neilson and an effective score by Ronen Landa to add to the overall mood.
McCarthy gets good work from a fairly small cast. Moreno is likable as Leigh. She’s an ambitious young woman, but one that has her own inner dramas and when it seems she’s unknowingly walked into contact with something malicious, her fear seems genuine as is our concern for her. Rivera also gives us a likable character in the artistic younger sister Vera, who is even less prepared to deal with this demonic entity especially since she is also unaware that she has been targeted. When the film switches focus to her in the second half, she handles it well as she begins to investigate into what is going on and why. The rest of the supporting cast do well in their parts including a brief appearance by Rob Zombie favorite Daniel Roebuck as the eager to sell homeowner and a creepy turn by young Ava Acres as a little girl who figures into the story later on.
Overall, I liked At The Devil’s Door. Not a major improvement over The Pact,but McCarthy is showing growth as a filmmaker and writer and it is a very spooky and moody little horror and one of the better ones I’ve seen so far this year. I think there are some very good things to come from McCarthy if he maintains his progression and, at the very least, he has delivered two spooky chillers so far. There’s a charm to his ability to make entertaining use of some traditional horror elements and his style is refreshingly simply and old school. A recommended horror, as is The Pactif you still haven’t seen that.