You have to feel for Nicolas Cage fans. He is an actor who is immensely talented and watchable. The only problem is that you never know just what the movie will be like. No two films ever have consistency and he can veer from a significant role to something that is truly awful in the space of less than one calendar year. The trailer for his latest film, Pay The Ghost, didn’t exactly fill you with confidence but as always it’s worth giving it a chance.
Mike (Nicolas Cage) is a busy man. He has just been made a tenured professor at his local New York university. His family life is suffering. Having missed his son Charlie’s Halloween trick or treating he persuades his wife Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies) to let him take Charlie to the Halloween carnival. While buying an ice cream Charlie asks if they can pay the ghost. Mike, distracted by the bustle round him, fails to see Charlie disappearing from his side. He is nowhere to be found. Despite a police search Charlie is listed as missing. A year later Mike is separated from his wife and is trying to come to terms with his loss. He starts to see Charlie everywhere but soon realises that it may be more than him going mad.
This is a little bit of a strange film in terms of the pacing. The film is just over ninety minutes long and there is a mismatch in the way the story unfolds. For about three quarters of the film, the emphasis is on Mike dealing with his grief and then coming to the realisation that there is something more to it. It is well plotted and it makes you believe that it will lead to a satisfying third act. Unfortunately the last part of the film is rushed to the point that you think you’ve missed something.
Cage is, as usual, a bit sinister. This time in a good way as it fits in with the creepy mood of the film. To be honest he looks a little old now to have a younger wife and a small child. I suppose it adds to the creepiness factor. His character has the main arc of the film as he figures out the supernatural aspect of the film.
Just about everyone else involved appears to have been forgotten or put to the side. Thee is little development for any of them. Mike’s wife Kristen is given very little to do. She goes from blaming him for the loss of her son to believing him very quickly and without much in the way of convincing. The story line involving the police investigation and the detective running it appears to be there to fill up a bit of time and is eventually just dropped. There is no conclusion for him at all. The most confusing side character is of Mike’s colleague Hannah (Veronica Ferres). She appears to only be in the film to move the plot forward at one point. There appears very little reason for her character to be involved beyond that.
This had the potential to be good. The premise of the missing children and the ghost who requires a form of payment to leave them alone is an interesting starting point. It is not is able to develop and deliver on it. What it comes to is that it isn’t really frightening and you have a good idea of exactly where it is going and how it will end up.
Overall, a disappointing and lacklustre horror that fails to deliver on its initial promise.