PAY THE GHOST (2015)
Directed by Uli Edel
English literature professor Mike takes his son Charlie to a Halloween parade to make up for being late home and not carving a pumpkin with him. After getting his son an ice-cream, he turns around to find Charlie missing. With the help of his wife Kristen, they search the carnival but are unable to find their son.
Fast forward to a year later, Mike and Kristen have separated due to the stress of their missing son and seem to be no closer to finding him with all leads dried up… that is until Mike and Kristen both begin to see visions of their son and experience strange goings on. Could there be something more to their Charlie’s disappearance than they first thought?
PAY THE GHOST is a horror thriller adapted from the short story of the same name by British author Tim Lebbon. What starts of as a thriller, focusing on the abduction of a child, soon turns into a chilling supernatural horror as our main characters, estranged couple Mike and Kristen, played by Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes from AMC’s hit TV series The Walking Dead), are plagued by other-worldly visions and experiences.
In the first 10 minutes of PAY THE GHOST, there’s some very interesting visuals that may or may not be an intentional homage to other movies. The first involves some kids hiding under the floorboards as their mother is being attacked upstairs, something which reminded me of a similar scene in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and I’m sure countless others whilst a scene a few minutes later that sees young Charlie on his scooter, riding through the hallways in his house, totally mimics that of Danny on his tricycle in The Shining. Purely from a camera angle perspective, the film captured my attention and the scenes that unfolded at the Halloween parade only furthered my interest in the movie.
It’s been ages since I’ve seen a terrific build-up of tension and PAY THE GHOST delivers just that. It’s spooky, it’s creepy and the supernatural evil just crawls under your skin as you watch. I’ll admit, I jumped a couple of times during the film which is something I very rarely do. Director Uli Edel seems to know how to suck the viewer into this world of loss and heartbreak and surprise at just the right moment to shock the viewer, be it using a quick flash or a lingering shot of a shadow in the distance.
Both Nicolas Cage and Sarah Wayne Callies are superb choices as the main leads in this movie. Cage manages to take the viewer on Mike’s journey for the truth and to find his beloved son whilst Callies perfectly captures the wife and mother, a woman who’s lost the most important part of her life and blames her husband for not looking out for and protecting him. As a viewer, I felt for both of the parents, especially Mike who was doing everything in his power to find Charlie and beating himself up at every opportunity for losing his son, something which can be so easily done except in this particuarly story it’s not as though he simply wondered off.
PAY THE GHOST struggles a little towards the end with a bit of a generic horror fare payoff, but it’s still nicely executed and manages to maintain the eeriness built up earlier on in the film. As a whole though, it’s a damn fine entertaining horror that does more to spook than the likes of Insidious and co.