Oct 182015
 
Title: Pay The Ghost
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Starring: Nicolas Cage,
Sarah Wayne Callies
Certificate: US: Not Rated
UK: 15
Picture: 16:9
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English.
Runtime: 1 Hour 34 mins
Extras: Behind The Scenes Featurette
Studio: Arrow Films
Release Date: USA: Nov 10 2015
UK: Oct 26 2015
See If You Like: Knowing,
Insidious,

While Nicolas Cage’s career may have been on something of a downturn over the past few years, and seeing him (like many other ’90s and early 2000s action stars) often relegated to the straight-to-DVD market, he still continues to churn out solid performances, and may be about to release his strongest film in a long time with Pay The Ghost.

Starring as Mike Lawford, Cage (Con Air) has to cope with the disappearance of his onscreen son at a halloween festival; an understandably traumatic experience which tests his marriage (to Walking Dead alum Sarah Wayne Callies), leaves him unable to focus at works, and begins to consume his every thought before leading him down the path of paranormal investigation.

As Mike and his wife Kristen are both sensible, well educated people, Mike’s flirtations with the paranormal aren’t readily accepted (even by him), yet strange sightings, sounds, and more begin to suggest there could be a supernatural force at work here; something which is taking children every halloween, and it’s up to Mike to find out what it is, stop it, and rescue his son Charlie (Jack Fulton, Pixels).

Cage gives a solid performance throughout; playing the whole thing as levelled headed as possible (he doesn’t have even one of his legendary onscreen freakouts), and remaining believable in every confused, worried, emotionally battered, and determined state he has to exhibit; and likewise Sarah Wayne Callies gives one of her best showings as the clearly distraught wife/mother who’s desperate to see her son again, blames her husband for what has happened (some of the exchanges between the pair are heart-wrenchingly realistic, despite a lack of dialogue). There’s little to mention in terms of supporting cast, but for main stars both Cage and Callies do and excellent job of convincing us they’re parents who’ve been pushed to the limit, and are forced to believe in things they never thought possible.

Pay The Ghost also succeeds in terms of structure, constantly amping up both the tension and momentum throughout; as there’s very little to go on straight away, and although we know something strange has happened, we don’t know exactly who has taken Charlie or why. This mystery element keeps us guessing, keeps things interesting, and is helped by the way things start small; it begins with a call, Mike thinking he sees Charlie on a bus etc. and builds to a climatic finale which involves mediums, ancient curses, and a rather angry spirit.

Direction (by Uli Edel of The Baader Meinhof Complex) is solid though not outstanding, Dan Kay’s screenplay does a decent job of maintaining interest throughout and successfully manages to blend both the drama and supernatural/horror aspects of the picture (providing an excellent balance between the relationship woes of Mike and Kristen after the loss of their son, and the more fantastical elements of the plot), the score is great, and Sharone Meir (of Whiplash) provides some stunning cinematography; all ensuring Pay The Ghost looks and sounds fantastic.

There are a couple of questionable choices (namely in some of the latter effects work), and after the interesting first half of the film the finale does become a little generic, yet the effects look great (for the most part), Cage and Callies are both brilliant, it’s a new interesting and engaging concept, and one which looks stunning thanks to the cinematography of Sharone Meir. So, if you’re looking for an interesting, suspenseful, and engaging thriller this halloween (an alternative to the hack-n-slash teen horrors we’re used to) Pay The Ghost should definitely make your list.

pay the ghost by rafy-177.cr2

Picture:

While it suffers slightly in low-lit interiors (failing to deliver the deepest blacks, and appearing a little grey), the picture quality for Pay The Ghost is simply stunning. In fact, the DVD looks so good you could almost confuse it with a budget Blu-ray. With superb detail, excellent colour representation, textures, and generally strong delineation, it was a struggle to find anything with which to mark this, anomaly-free, release down. A solid release from Arrow Films.

Audio:

Likewise (though not quite as strong) is the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track which brings Pay The Ghost to DVD; a robust yet unobtrusive track which is well prioritised, keeps dialogue anchored in the centre channel and always coherent, and makes effective use of the rear channels for both subtle ambient effects, and more heightened atmospherics (during crowd scenes, and the busy finale).

Extras:

Despite only having a single item of bonus content (a Behind The Scenes featurette), everything from the director, actors’ performances, the story, and more are discussed in detail with interviews and behind the scenes footage making it an engaging, though not too in-depth watch.

The Bottom Line:

While there are always a rush of straight-to-DVD horror movies this time of year, you’d be hard pressed to find one as watchable as Pay The Ghost; an interesting and intriguing horror/thriller which plays up the human elements of child loss while also exploring the more fantastical elements of its supernatural plot. Featuring strong performances from Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies, brilliant cinematography, and a more mystery-themed classic horror, Pay The Ghost is well worth a watch.

As it also comes to DVD with fantastic picture quality, great sound, and a decent behind the scenes featurette, it’s a solid buy this Halloween for any horror/thriller lover.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

Film:
Ratings 07 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com
Video:
Ratings 09
Audio:
Ratings 07
Extras:
Ratings 05
Overall:
Ratings 07