The Pact Review: Detective Sundae!
Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Dir: Nicholas McCarthy
Release Date: 2012
“As a woman struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother's death and the disappearance of her sister, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home.”
Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy liked the idea of this movie so much he did it twice. First as an 11 minute short film before making it feature length a year later.
Made for less than half a million dollars and grossing just over $7M in total this haunted house movie stuffs as much into it's 89 minute run time as it possibly can, including an ice cream loving detective played by Starship Trooper's Casper Van Dien, a blind girl that can talk to ghosts and of course, an old man crying at the end of a bed!
So what did the BMC make of it? Did we love it? Did we hate it? Did we fall asleep 20 minutes in thus rendering the entire review pointless?
Read on to find out....
So we start our movie in a house. It's old, it's creepy, it's the setting for our movie.
In that house we meet Nicole Barlow and she's making a phone call. Turns out she's calling her sister about the recent death of their mother whose house she is currently in. We also see a Christmas tree in the corner so I'm guessing we can add this to our festive horror movie list, so that's nice.
The sister on the phone, who we find out is called Annie, does not want to return to the house despite Nicole insisting they both need to be there. We also find out Nicole was a drug user.
"You know what? Fuck you! that was four years ago before I was pregnant!" She says. So in your face Annie!
Annie then hints that their mother use to do things to them in their youth and she's mad Nicole is even there. Nicole asks if Annie is coming to the funeral.
A question we don't hear the answer to as we are whisked off for a short tour of the house by way of quick camera shots of each room.
It's a classic creepy house vibe with old out of date wallpaper and crucifixes in every room. Nothing says deranged mother in horror movies more than having an abundance of religious symbols about the place!
We cut to our first real scare of this movie - How Nicole makes her cup of tea.
She boils the kettle, hot water in the mug, THEN she adds the tea bag and that's the tea done, tea bag still in there and off she goes sipping away. This must be one of the sick things their mother taught them. The sadistic old hag!
Anyway, she decides to call her daughter over webcam, the problem is she's using the neighbours WIFI to connect. Not sure if the neighbours know about it or not. Maybe we will get the answer to that later...
The daughter answers but is having trouble hearing or seeing her so Nicole walks around the house until the connection is ok.
Then, in a jump scare you can see coming so far off you'd probably guessed it before you even pressed play on the film, the daughter asks her mum who that is behind her!
No one as it turns out.
But wait! The door to a room is open! Nicole walks slowly into the darkness and....end scene,
Cut to Annie Barlow, the sister we heard briefly on the phone. Annie's a badass bitch who takes no shit. We can tell because not only does she wear a leather jacket but she also rides a motorcycle and she's on her way back to her mom's. Looks like she will make the funeral after all!
After a while walking round the house shouting Nicole's name, Annie listens to her voicemails. We get multiple messages from Liz, who we saw briefly answering the webcam when Nicole wanted to speak to her daughter. Turns out no one can get hold of Nicole either. Annie rings Liz back and leaves a message telling her to not worry about it and that she always turns up in the end. She shakes her head through the entire message to show she's remembering Nicole's drug using days again which is fair enough, a relative with a history of drug abuse goes missing you don't immediately think ghost's took her do you?
She tries calling Nicole's phone and she instantly hears it ringing...behind the door she went through that night...
Annie opens the door to reveal a closet, how the hell did Nicole walk so far into there? Spooky stuff.
We hear something fall in their mom's room and we find a jewellery box on the ground open with some keys spilling out. Not only that but also an old picture of two kids dressed as a cowboy and cowgirl.
Skipping ahead we get bumps in the night, the ghosts have raided the fridge at one point and smashed a picture frame off the wall. (The picture shows a pregnant woman who we assume is Annie's mum but once out the frame we see its been folded to hide another pregnant woman in a red and white dress standing next to her. That's important. Remember that.)
Annie decides to get away from all the paranormal shit and the belief her junkie sister has abandoned her family and decides to go out and enjoy herself the only way a girl like Annie knows how...by attending her mother's funeral. She says her goodbye's at the open casket by staring at her mom for a second then leaves.
Liz appears in the hall behind her with Nicole's daughter in tow and we find out this is the first time Annie has met her niece. Liz is surprised by this and I'm still trying to work out who Liz actually is in this movie. She is referred to as "Aunty Liz" by Nicole's daughter Eva but I don't think she's the sister of Annie so maybe just a close friend of the family?
Anyway, despite all the paranormal stuff going on and the fact Nicole's phone and car were still at the house Annie decides it would be a good idea to invite them both back and sure enough off they go. I'm sure it'll all be fine. As long as your definition of fine is another person goes missing.
Back at the house Eva is fast asleep in one of the bedrooms which allows the other two to get to know each other. Liz rather aggressively asks to see the necklace around Annie's neck, she shows her its a massive cross and that her mother had given it to her (remember this too).
More hints at how bad their mother treated them and Liz gets more lines of dialogue than the actress playing her is capable of performing. Liz comments on the bond between kids and their mother and Annie snipes back is that why Nicole ran off and left her daughter? Liz isn't happy with that and asks why did Annie come back and we get some awful face acting followed by the line "....for Nicole."
Everyone goes to bed. Whilst Annie dreams of a shirtless man crying at the end of a bed (a recurring dream for her in this movie, I wonder what it means? Maybe she's underconfident about the size of her penis?) Liz is awakened by a noise, a quick investigation reveals nothing and she goes back to sleep. Nothing to see here. EXCEPT THE SHADOW OF A MAN ON THE WALL!
Annie wakes up to go the toilet, as she's sitting there a shadowy figure walks across the corridor in the out of focus distance. She follows and heads into Liz's room to see she's not there! Cue lots of shouting her name and running around the house. We see the same door that Nicole ran into at the start of the film is now open and out of nowhere the invisible ghosts start pushing her to the ground and dragging her around using pretty good visual effects for a film with this budget. If any of you have seen the recent Invisible Man movie you will know the effect I'm talking about. It looks to be trying to drag her into the room! She eventually fights her way out of the house into the street where she makes a run for her bike.
Before she can escape she can hear Eva crying in the bedroom. Annie curses out loud before running back inside to save her.
Cue more of Annie being thrown around the place, at one point she's thrown into the corridor where her knife she is carrying is stuck in the wall where the photo from earlier hung (coincidence?)
She manages to reach Nicole's daughter and they both run out the house.
Well, I mean you wouldn't go back there after that would you?
Annie does. Let's continue.
And I'm glad we are cause we get introduced now to the best character in the movie.
Annie is at the police station looking down at her coffee when the true hero of this film walks in. He's dressed in white trousers and a green check shirt untucked, he's got two-day stubble and looks slovenly as hell. Not in a cool way like Bruce Willis in Die Hard. More like they woke the local drunk up and put a police badge on him as a festive treat.
It's Johnny Rico himself - Casper Van Dien!
If the people who make Ken dolls did a divorced-dad-at-Christmas play set it would look like this man right here.
CVD is a cop. And he's here to help.
He starts off his crusade for justice by taking a personal call at his desk. Judging by his facial expression its either Hank from Breaking Bad telling him he needs to go back to Klendathu to shoot some more bugs or its his ex-wife telling him to stop drunk texting her.
I'll leave you to decide which is more likely.
He then turns to Annie and asks her to go through her story again of what had happened that night. He notices she is rolling herself a cigarette.
"I used to smoke...You know what I do now when I get the urge?"
He does this.
Casper Van Dien loves ice cream. He bloody loves it! So much so in light of this (and the fact I cant remember his character name and I'm not rewinding to find out) I'm going to call him Detective Sundae for the rest of this review.
Lets make him look the part before we carry on.
Anyway, Annie doesn't want ice cream. And she doesn't want to make friends!...in that order!
Detective Sundae changes tact and tries flattery.
"You remind me of my daughter. She's a little bit younger than you...you guys are a lot alike...she's a real fuckin' bitch too."
What can I say? That's Sundae for you - ice cold, short and sweet. Deadly around people with diabetes (probably)
Back to the film and Annie loves this totally inappropriate banter from Detective Sundae and caves in and takes the ice cream in the end.
"They always do." Says Detective Sundae and winks to us at home....
He doesn't actually do this but he would of if I wrote this movie.
Instead they end up talking about Sundae's daughter and we find out she lives up in Seattle with her mother. It's a sad story. We know this because he says those exact words.
"Let's talk about why you're here." He continues,
We get a quick recap of what's happened in the movie so far and Detective Sundae does crack one case. We find out Liz is their cousin! The rest is stuff we already know and Annie ends the conversation saying she will not go back to that house.
A quick glance at the clock tells us there's an hour left of the movie so I'd be surprised if they don't.
She says she doesn't need Sundae's help and storms out. He tells her she better not leave town.
She stops at the door, sighs, and returns to Detective Sundae.
("They always do." *wink*...except his wife)
She tells him she will stick around. But not because of him. Because she wants to know what happened to Nicole and Liz.
Why Sundae would think she was staying because of him is anyone's guess but he accepts it and reminds her she should also stick around for Eva, who is upstairs alone and probably not enjoying ice cream.
Skipping right ahead in this movie we get more dreams of crying men at the end of the bed as well as Annie having breakfast at a diner after another sleepless night, she decides to go through the deeds of her mother's house which contains the blueprints to the place and shows a room that doesn't actually exist...
It leaves her no choice. She has to go back and investigate. But she's not alone...
She bought back up.
Did somebody order a Sundae?
Annie and Detective Sundae make a beeline for the knife in the wall. Annie pulls it out and realises the wall is very thin, pulling it away she reveals a door!
A locked door as it turns out.
But wait! Annie grabs the keys she discovered earlier when the jewellery box fell and she tries them out. The lock clicks and the door opens...
Sundae asks her if she's ok to wait here. Looks like Sundae is going in the pitch black room first...or at least that's what I thought after she says yes she's fine to stay put he then walks the opposite way seemingly out the house leaving Annie alone with the entrance of the room wide open. What the hell Sundae???
Thankfully he's back momentarily, this time with a flashlight in hand. They enter to find an old bed frame and not much else in terms of furnishing. Annie spots that their are holes in the walls. Peep holes that allow a person to spy out into the main rooms of the house including the daughter's bedrooms and the living room/kitchen. Weird.
"My mom wanted me to find this place, she guided me here." Says Annie. I mean, wasn't the mom suppose to be evil and inflicted some form of abuse on her two daughters? If so why would her ghost help them discover this room?
"We're going to need a lot more than this to find Liz and Nicole. I can take some pictures but that's about it," Says Detective Sundae
"Why don't you believe me?" Replies Annie. I mean with the whole 'I'm not staying for you' comment and now this I get the feeling Annie thinks Sundae is some sort of old family friend rather than a rough around the edges rebel cop with a love for frozen dessert.
He doesn't care about this crazy bitch. Besides she's not his type. Detective Sundae likes his women the way he likes his ice cream - rich, thick and easy to pick up at a supermarket.
With Detective Sundae refusing to blindly go along with the theory of ghosts guiding them to find two missing people in which Annie is the blatant prime suspect, she decides to go visit an old friend called Stevie. We're halfway through this movie and there's been no mention of her before this but turns out she's blind and can talk to dead people. We also meet her ridiculously over the top brother Giles who listens to the worst excuse for rock music I've ever heard in my life, it literally sounds like someone smashing a metal barrel over and over again. The director decided to let the music play through the entirety of this scene so I skipped ahead. You're welcome.
Annie takes them both to the hidden room in the house. Has this ever gone well in any movie? When you take a clairvoyant into a haunted house? It ends with Stevie writhing about on the floor screaming and Giles shouting at Annie not to touch her over and over again. Stevie repeats the name "Judas" constantly until Giles pulls her out the room. We then see the corpse of the woman in the red and white dress floating above them and Annie realises it isn't her mother haunting the house but this woman instead!
As you can see the plot us very twisty-turny at this point. lots of plot points established haven't been closed off yet and McCarthy the director seems to keep adding more the further into the film we get. I suppose this reveal about the ghost should make you want to know more but all I wanted to do was head back to the police station and see what Detective Sundae was up to.
Anyway, Giles takes Stevie home, leaving enough time to punch Annie right in the face as punishment for putting his sister in harms way. Jesus Christ! Annie is surpisingly unfazed by the altercation and isntead researches "Judas" on the internet.
You'd have thought searching that would bring up a shit ton of bible results in your search engine but surprisingly she finds a site straight away with all the info she needs.'
It turns out "Judas" stands for The Judas Killer, a serial killer known for decapitating a woman in the same red and white floral dress as the ghost in the house. Annie also finds out her mother had a brother who was also linked to the murdered woman. We could have more than one ghost on our hands here...
We finally get back to Detective Sundae who laughably notices a ghost hand pointing at something in a picture he took whilst in the house. It's laugh out loud stupid. He decides to go back and have a look at what the ghost hand is trying to show him.
Because he's a fucking great detective he takes his camera with him and documents everything he does.
He hears the jewellery box fall on the floor in the mother's bed room and goes to investigate. He has a look around and turns just in time for someone to stab him right in the neck with a knife!
DETECTIVE SUNDAE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
With Detective Sundae dead I had no interest in the rest of the film but it turns out the Judas Killer is Annie's uncle and he's been living under the house this whole time....huh? What kind of stupid implausible shit is this? Annie comes back to the house and this old dude emerges from out the floor and she hides. He helps himself to whatever's in the fridge then goes and has a cry on the end of a bed.
So what exactly was the point in all the paranormal stuff if it ends up being an old guy under the floor? Did the mom know the whole time? Why didn't he just kill Annie and Nicole when they were kids?
Annie finds the bodies of Nicole, Liz and.....gulp....Detective Sundae under the floor and she reaches for his shoulder holster to grab his gun. She reaches into his left shoulder holster and pulls out a soft scoop vanilla ice cream cone (he was probably saving it for later) then reaches in the right holster and pulls out his gun.
This last 10 minutes or so of her being quiet and sneaking around trying not to raise awareness she's there is probably the best thing in the film but couldnt help thinking about the movie Don't Breathe who did the same sort of set up but much better.
Annie eventually gets into a fight with Judas and ends up shooting him in the head during a struggle. We see he has different coloured eyes just like Annie herlself and she leaves. She gets cutody of Eva and the house is sold.
The final scene is Annie dreaming that the Judas killer eopens his eyes and looks around before fading to black.
I thought some rare bits of this film were good including the previously mentioned final chase around the house which built tension nicely but mostly I thought it was a jumbled mess. Lots of plot points were bought up and a lot were left unanswered. things such as what did the mum do to the girls when they were younger? What was the sad story behind Detective Sundae's divorce?
This was the directors first film and I wonder if he had a touch of the Rob Zombie thought process behind him in that because he might not make another film he might as well put as much into this one as possible like Zombie did with his House of a Thousand Corpses
I think it would have been a better, clearer narrative if it was a ghost story or a hider in the house story. It didn't need to be both. The acting was awful at times with the only saving grace being Casper Van Dien as Detective Sundae. If a spinoff of Sundae's earlier years got greenlit I would be first in line to see that movie.
Ultimately and maybe unforgivably the movie is dull, the dialogue awkward and unbelievable and it just isn't scary. The jump scares they do try have been done to death by this point in other movies.
But, if on the other hand you want to watch The Pact (come to think of it I'm not sure why its even called this? Also, the movie poster has a ghost pressing out the wall like Freddy Krueger and this isn't in the film at all. Usually a tell-tale sign of a shit film) you can catch it over on SHUDDER right now!
This did spawn a sequel as well with a few of the original cast members from this one back for another round. It was really badly reviewed and may turn up on this site at some point. check it out if you dare!
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Casper Van Diem as Detective Sundae! He's the cop that makes sure criminals get their just desserts, he's not just solved one case but hundreds and thousands...with a cherry on top.....you get the idea.
FAVOURITE MOMENT: The penultimate act had great tension even if the plot had left the movie at that point.
"You remind me of my daughter. She's a little bit younger than you...you guys are a lot alike...she's a real fuckin' bitch too."
FAVOURITE DEATH: Detective Sundae's knife through the neck.