Nicolas Cage in “not complete crap movie” shock! Poor old Nic is one of Hollywood’s oddest and, at times, interesting leading men but his career has had more ups and downs than the express elevator in the Empire State Building. We certainly haven’t forgiven him for the appalling Wicker Man remake. Bad Nic Cage. Pay the Ghost, a timely new release for Halloween “season” isn’t likely to propel him into Tinseltown’s A-List but it’s certainly not as squealingly awful as some of the projects Mr C has signed up for in recent years (naming no names but...Left Behind and Drive Angry? What was he thinking?)
Pay the Ghost, based on a short story by British author Tim Lebbon is an interesting, if flawed, attempt to dial modern horror back a bit. Nic plays lecturer Mike Lawford, an up-coming academic on the verge of his professional breakthrough. He’s married to Kristen (Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies) and the couple’s life is, as they say, turned upside down when he takes their young son Charlie (Jack Fulton) to a Halloween carnival. The boy disappears; he’s nowhere to be found. A year later and Mike and Kristen are estranged and, as Halloween approaches, Mike seems to be receiving strange messages and signs suggesting that their lost son is reaching out to them from... somewhere else...
There’s a lot of decent stuff in Pay the Ghost – not least strong performances from Cage and Callies as the torn-apart parents – and whilst it’s clear that director Edel is trying to avoid the clichés and conventions of modern horror movies, it’s inevitable that he fails now and again and can’t resist falling into the ‘jump scare’ trap which bedevils most contemporary scary movies. The film tries to keep one foot in the real world but the appearance of mysterious crows, ghostly grey children and a malevolent figure called the Crone – and a rather silly denouement which is glossed over all too easily in the rush for an easy happy ending – keep pulling the movie in directions it clearly isn’t comfortable drifting into. Pay the Ghost’s nicely built tension and character-building is thrown away in a seen-all-this-before tide of Halloween hokum involving doorways and portals to other worlds and spooky spectres who just about manage to avoid shouting ‘boo’ as the film crumbles under the weight of the horror clichés it had been doing so well to avoid.
Pay the Ghost won’t tingle any spines; it’s very much one for the early hours of your Halloween horror marathon. Still – Nic Cage in “not complete crap movie” sensation. Who’d have thought it? Something to tell your grandchildren about.
Special Features: Behind the scenes
PAY THE GHOST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ULI EDEL / SCREENPLAY: DAN KAY / STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, SARAH WAYNE CALLIES, VERONICA FERRES, LYRIQ BENT / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 26TH