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Movie Review: Pay the Ghost (2015)

D+
Runtime: 94 minutes
Rated: No MPAA rating
Director: Uli Edel
Writers: Tim Lebbon, Dan Kay
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies,
Veronica Ferres, Lauren Beatty
A professor (Nicholas Cage) goes on a frantic, year-long search for his son (Jack Fulton) who is mysteriously abducted during a Halloween night carnival. But by whom? And why? If you want to answer these questions, you will have to be patient, as the film begins the story all too nonchalantly and makes us wait to experience anything that even remotely resembles terror.

There are only a few gripping moments in Pay the Ghost--with the bizarre ambiguity of the title being one of the most engrafting appeals of the film. Beyond groans, mysterious happenings, unusual activity of vultures, and one chilling scene where young Charlie's scooter is seen gliding down a hallway towards mom (Sarah Wayne Callies), there just isn't much here of substance. It's another example of an atmospheric horror without any meaty story enticement.

The performances aren't bad. They are just what you'd expect from a pre-Halloween cash-in that more nearly belongs on the Disney channel than in theaters. It has everything from cryptic writing, creepy old prophetic dudes (who are awfully open-mouthed about why these Halloween child abductions are happening), black shadows, mutilation during possessions to reveal plot details, some old-fashioned detective work, and angry spirits seeking revenge--in fact, too many elements to congeal into a meaningful or credible story that we feel we should lend ourselves to for a couple of hours. And apart from all of that, it isn't scary.

You can tell a lame horror movie by two things; one, the story ends on a positive note with few or any lingering questions or eerily uncomfortable undercurrents about what you just watched; two, you don't feel compelled to wonder about how messed up the real world would be to experience this sort of phenomenon. One: check. Two: check.

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