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Blu-Ray : For Fans Only
Ranking:
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Release Date: November 29th, 2022 Movie Release Year: 1995

The Pact

Overview -

The Pact is a 1995 supernatural SOV thriller from director Brady Sykes that channels the aura of 70’s Eurotrash mysteries. When a young woman inherits her grandmother's dilapidated house she also receives the keys to its haunted past. Shot on VHS during the director’s summer vacation, the feature is messy but filled with atmosphere and plenty of sexual subtext. Saturn’s Core brings the film to Blu-ray with an A/V package reflective of the source elements. A director commentary track is the highlight of the special features. This languid SOV feature requires patience and commitment from viewers so it's ultimately - For Fans Only.  

Andrea Graves inherits her grandmother’s nineteenth century beachfront house. Referred to by the locals as the “Charnel House”, she soon finds that this seemingly innocuous homestead hides a cavalcade of ominous and spectral secrets. Andrea discovers a haunted mirror which seems to act as a portal to the afterworld and soon, the ghosts of the past begin to haunt her in the present. As the undead begin to lay siege upon the house, her only hope for salvation is to surrender to the spirits and fulfill The Pact!

Shot on the scenic shores of Virginia Beach in 1995, The Pact marked an early directorial effort from prolific SOV filmmaker Brad Sykes (Camp Blood, Death Factory, Plaguers). Scarcely seen and distributed since its initial completion, The Pact presents a micro-budget meditation on the dreamy Eurocult sleaze epics of ‘70s crossed with the supernatural shorefront stylings of The Slayer and Blood Beach.

directed by: Brad Sykes
starring: Dawn Soleri, Brett Edenton, DeAnna Day, Jack Wareing
1995 / 75 min / 1.33:1 / English DTS-HD MA 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region Free Blu-ray
  • All new 2022 audio commentary with writer / director Brad Sykes
  • “Tears” - a short film by Brad Sykes (1997) with optional audio commentary
  • “The Pact” stills gallery
  • “Tears” stills gallery
  • Reversible cover art featuring newly commissioned artwork by Corinne Halbert
  • English SDH subtitles

Purchase Original Edition From Vinegar Syndrome.

OVERALL:
For Fans Only
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
75
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English
Special Features:
Director Commentary, Short Film "Tears" (22mins), Still Gallery, Saturn's Core Trailers (6mins)
Release Date:
November 29th, 2022

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“Back door guests are best.”

Andrea Graves (Dawn Soleri, Bloody Hooker Massacre) returns to her hometown to inherit her grandmother Bianca’s dilapidated oceanside house. The “Charnel House” as it is known, has a bad reputation with locals as a haunted residence. The place ironically resides at 101 Killington Street.  With hopes of calling the place home, Andrea struggles to make sense of her grandmother’s mysterious past and the terrifying visions she experiences along the way. An old crush named Vic (Brett Edenton) helps her investigate the strange occurrences surrounding a mirror and the nightmare featuring a young woman trying to murder them. 

The Pact deals with the unbreakable emotional bonds between lovers that can echo through time and space. Bianca’s relationship with her lover/friend Delphine culminated in a suicide pact that didn’t go as planned and now Andrea is thrust into the mix when she enters the house. I admire how the film slowly unveils the circumstances that led to Delphine haunting Andrea looking for her long-lost friend while giving Andrea her own set of moral quandaries with Vic. It’s all handled clumsily but the intent is certainly there. 

Shot in Virginia Beach in 1995 the film was presumably shelved until a 2013 home video release that brought it back into the folds of time. A no-budget production from the start, The Pact appears to utilize a boarded-up construction site for the Charnel House which gives the whole production an exciting guerilla-style tone. Blood effects are goopy but mostly hidden in the dark recesses of the frame. These arterial spurts don’t look terrible but they get the job done without drawing too much attention. 

Director Brad Sykes crafts a slow-burn thriller with confident camerawork allowing each scene to have some life and intention. Performances from the amateur cast are all as expected with the actors committing their best effort. Dawn Soleri navigates the story with equal parts authority and confusion. As expected with most gothic-inspired horror there are some tasteful nude scenes giving Andrea a welcome sense of vulnerability while navigating her relationships. Brett Edenton provides an unusual look to his character but isn’t sure what to do with Vic until he is faced with protecting Andrea’s life. However, I give the MVP to Jack Wareing (Lord of the Vampires) who plays the possessed weirdo Alvin who steals the show. His delivery of the line “She wants to have a word with you” is equal parts hilarious and revolting. 

Channeling gothic supernatural flicks of the 70s and 80s, The Pact resembles a zero-budget 1990s Jean Rollin feature. Moody and atmospheric the film doesn’t rely on splatter gore effects or outrageous sexuality to channel its haunting message. The actors are taxed a bit in their character-driven scenes but the messages are eventually conveyed. Sykes seems to have a confident approach to the shots, especially action sequences. Lightning challenges and locations are seen but never affect the film’s momentum. Overall a predictable haunting feature with some surprises for such an amateur effort.  

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Pact arrives on Bu-ray thanks to Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome. The Region Free disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork. If you order direct from Vinegar Syndrome you score an exclusive slipcover. Loading the disc presents the Saturn’s Core logo followed by the Nightfall pictures logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing adjacent to typical navigation options. 

Video Review

Ranking:

A disclaimer at the film’s start readsThis presentation of The Pact was created using the highest quality materials available. Any imperfections contained within this presentation are inherent to the source material.” 

I watch many SOV features that provide a disclaimer regarding the film’s presentation and source material. As you can imagine there are audiences who don’t understand why a Blu-ray disc would present a film with such ratty and unrefined images. I applaud Saturn’s Core and other labels for hoping to snuff out the negative criticisms on SOV image quality in the age of HD and 4k. 

The Pact was shot on VHS camcorders in the mid-90s resulting in a washed-out image full of analog noise. Colors are discernible but vary wildly between scenes. Detail is scarce though some exterior shots reveal limited facial features like the zombie makeup effects. Nighttime scenes or those within the Charnel House are difficult to read with most elements lost in darkness. Naturally, Sykes uses this to his advantage to build tension and atmosphere. My impression is that the murky and unstable lo-fi appearance of the film produces a pleasing supernatural aura when combined with the POV-style camerawork. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

The Pact arrives on Blu-ray with a serviceable DTS-HD MA Stereo mix. The audio track presents the disjointed dialogue exchanges clearly with minimal hiss detected. The atmospheric music and gothic effects evoke a 70’s supernatural style which is carried through the mix confidently. Too often the music tracks overpower the dialogue making it difficult to understand what's going on between our confused characters.  

Exchanges are recorded in-camera so medium and wide shots with audio are barely discernible. For example, when Vic is explaining the pact to Andrea the audio becomes clearer as the camera zooms into the two-shot. What I love most about this lo-fi supernatural feature is the mechanical whirring of the VHS camera equipment that can be heard constantly throughout the film. Lastly, for those familiar with Virginia Beach, you’ll understand the constant roar of aircraft heard throughout the feature. 

Special Features

Ranking:

While Saturn's Core didn't load this disc with features there is enough here for fans to sink their teeth into after the feature. Start with the short film then settle in with the commentary track from Sykes. 

  • Audio Commentary with Writer / Director Brad Sykes
  • Short Film: Tears (HD 21:54) An early career short film from director Brad Sykes with optional audio commentary.
  • Still Gallery (HD 5:43) A slideshow video of images from the production.
  • Saturn’s Core Trailers (HD 6:00) 

Final Thoughts

The Pact is a slow-burn SOV thriller that while messy and incoherent is full of gothic vibes worth experiencing. Devoid of ultra-gory violence, the film relies heavily upon the mystery element to build tension and offer the audience a journey. If you can look past the no-budget trappings and shaky performances you’ll see The Pact is a solid late SOV-era thriller. Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome brings the film to Blu-ray with a respectable A/V that reflects the quality of the source tape confidently. Fans of SOV films will find this languid thriller a fun watch but others may lose their patience. For Fans Only.