Pay the Ghost, 2015.
Directed by Uli Edel.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jack Fulton, Lyriq Bent, Lauren Beatty, Stephen McHattie and Veronica Ferres.
A professor frantically searches for his son who was abducted during a Halloween parade.
At first glance, a film starring Nicolas Cage titled Pay the Ghost screams absurdity too good to be true. Will Nicolas Cage be in debt to an army of comically blue, gun-toting ghosts threatening harm on the rest of his family? Will he then battle those ghosts with a proton pack? Unfortunately no, but let me tell you something, that little synopsis I put very little effort and thought into would have been far more entertaining than what actually happens in Pay the Ghost.
Let’s face it, in the year 2015, when people hear Nicolas Cage and ghosts in the same sentence, they’re probably expecting B-movie shenanigans that allow the infamous star to unleash his ham-fisted bat-shit crazy persona that allowed disasters like The Wicker Man to become cult classics. Instead, what we get is your average run-of-the-mill supernatural abduction story, just not in theaters and also with a very poor budget.
When contemplating just how shoestring sized the production for Pay the Ghost is, it’s a wonder that atrociously designed CGI effects like overgrown vultures flying over New York were even deemed necessary. It adds nothing to the narrative (then again, there’s a whole lot that just doesn’t really have a purpose here), looks stupid, and is a constant reminder that you’re watching a horrible movie designed just to make a quick buck around Halloween.
What’s truly terrifying about Pay the Ghost is that some studio executive must have read the novel and seriously thought that it was good enough to warrant a film adaptation. To be honest, maybe it is and all fault lies solely on the filmmakers, but I really don’t care enough to go digging around because what I just watched was so amateurish and straight up boring on every level that I’m not interested in learning more.
It’s clear that some characters probably had a tad more fleshed out in the novel, or at least I hope so considering towards the end characters just randomly die for inexplicable reasons. If your purpose has been served (which is dumping exposition to Nicolas Cage in excruciatingly drawn out scenes) there’s a chance death awaits you.
Another baffling aspect is that a year after the disappearance of Cage’s boy, we learn that the NYPD has rigorously worked on finding the missing child with minimal results at best, but literally all Cage has to do is look up some statistics on the ratio of children that go missing that are recovered on specific days, which in an instant tells him that something more sinister is going on during Halloween. There’s a point where he lashes out calling the department lazy, and judging from this movie he might be right.
The biggest crime Pay the Ghost commits however is essentially being a tedious watch, making a 90 minute film feel over two hours. To make matters worse, nothing really happens outside of characters coming into supernatural contact with what could be their son trying to communicate. And even then, once there finally is a climactic confrontation with the evil spirit, it’s not very engaging. You will laugh for a few seconds at the spirit launching Cage across a metal walkway thanks to the special effects over-exaggerating the force, so he flies 40 feet in one direction, but for the most part there is no suspense. Even some of the most awful horror movies I’ve seen this year have at least managed to dish out something exciting for a finale.
Finally, the acting from everyone involved is very wooden, but they really can’t be blamed considering the script often gives them no direction or character to bring alive. As previously mentioned, Cage plays 90% of Pay the Ghost straight, which is a shame because his off-the-wall antics and expressionistic meltdowns would have definitely mitigated extreme boredom and lazy writing into something possibly worth remembering for laughs.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★