Monday, January 11, 2016

Film Review: Pay The Ghost (2015)

Pay The Ghost (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...I was more disappointed than anything."

One year after his son's disappearance, Professor Mike Cole (Nicolas Cage) begins to see and hear his son, which leads him into a haunting underworld...

Pay The Ghost is a run-of-the-mill horror film. The film begins on Halloween. Everything is falling together well for Mike and his family – his wife, Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies), and son, Charlie (Jack Fulton). On Halloween, Mike and Charlie visit a fair. During the fair, Charlie vanishes without a trace. Fast forward a year, Mike is still searching for his son and Kristen is trying her best to cope – add in an obligatory "You were supposed to watch our son" line from Kristen. Eventually, Mike begins to see and hear his son – he begins to feel his presence. Mike begins investigating with the help of Kristen and the pair delve into a phantom's poignant story. I liked bits and pieces of the ending, but I did find it a bit cheesy and underwhelming – the former due to the visuals and the latter due to the lack of impact. The pieces of the ending that I enjoyed, I can't really explain or I'd be spoiling the film.

I may sound like I despised this film, but I really didn't; I didn't love it, either. I suppose I was more disappointed than anything. Although the story doesn't break any ground, I was interested, especially in the folklore background. The mystery wasn't captivating, either, but it was serviceable. It's not the type to make you take notes along the way, but it gets the job done. The horror is mostly reliant on jump-scares and some ghostly visuals. There were some interesting tidbits here, but nothing particularly scary, which was utterly disappointing. The jump-scares, in particular, stuck out like a sore thumb, which sort of ruins the purpose. The film just never reaches it's full potential. There's a mystery here, filled with cops and parents trying to unravel it, but not really. It doesn't help that most of the film is spelled out for us in some blatant exposition and some scenes don't make any sense. (Why is one insignificant, innocent character attacked instead of Mike? Why would a blind man carry a perfectly working flashlight?)

The acting was hit-and-miss, too. Nicolas Cage is playing a tamed Nicolas Cage here. I like his jittery, zany performances. His stern performances can be great, too, like in Joe. For Pay The Ghost, he's generally playing it safe – which is serviceable. Sarah Wayne Callies is a bit more natural, although she can be over-the-top at times. Jack Fulton is very stiff, though, due to both his actual performance and his dialogue. He doesn't sound like a child and he's really lacking in conviction. The film looks and sounds decent. There was some music that caught my ear, but nothing else really stood out. The film is directed by Uli Edel and written by Dan Kay. The film suffers from a lack of originality and uninspired execution. Edel and Kay have crafted a competent film, but it fails to leave an impression.

Overall, Pay The Ghost is a merely decent film. I didn't hate it and I certainly didn't love it. There are some aspects of the story that I adored, like the background, and some of it was rather dull. Some performances were okay, others were mediocre. As you can see, it's a film that sits in the middle. There's only one thing I can say for certain: I wouldn't pay to see this ghost. I'd rather stream the ghost, if you get what I'm saying. (You know? Like the title? These never work out for me. In other words, watch it on Netflix if you're interested.)

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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