Pay the Ghost: Nicolas Cage Returns to Humdrum Horror

Nicolas Cage’s return to horror in this 2015 offering is not as laughably bad as the The Wicker Man remake or as pointless as Ghost Rider, but Pay the Ghost is more humdrum hokum than real horror.

Pay the Ghost: Nicolas Cage Returns to Humdrum Horror

Nicolas Cage’s return to horror in this 2015 offering is not as laughably bad as the The Wicker Man remake or as pointless as Ghost Rider, but  Pay the Ghost is more humdrum hokum than real horror. Based on the novel by Tim Lebbon,  a screenplay by Dan Kay and directed by Uli Edel the film is about a child stolen from his father at a  Halloween carnival.

Cage plays Mike Lawford, a university professor who has just made tenure. His wife Kristen is Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Colony) and Charlie,  their son,  is played by Jack Fulton (a busy young actor with 25 credits under his belt). 

Predictably, the loss of Charlie pushes the parents apart and it appears that Mike, after lackadaisically teaching his literature course, puts up fliers and pushes the police to find his son.  With only days to go before Halloween, the one year anniversary of Charlie’s “kidnapping,”  Lawford sees Charlie on a bus.

The man chases the bus and  after boarding  it heads to the seat where he saw Charlie.  Mike finds it empty. As he leaves the bus, a vulture captures Mike’s attention and following the scavenger he finds the words “Pay the Ghost” spray-painted on a derelict building.

“Pay the Ghost” was the last thing that Charlie said to Lawford prior to his disappearing.   Mike follows clues and learns of an old curse, of course, where a woman who was burned at the stake, along  with her children cursed the area.

Not having read the source material for this film it is difficult to say whether it suffers from the same miss-mash of plots and other film storylines and devices that the film does.  Pay the Ghost feels like a recipe to some over-made cocktail: One part The Turn of the Screw, one part Poltergeist, or Insidious,  a dash of Ringu and just a whiff of The Shining.

There is nothing blazingly original here.  One spends more time wondering if Cage was ill while making the film since he appears to be suffering from Tom Cruise’s recent ailment of overly puffy features.  (Cage also seems to be wearing a hairpiece or is sporting the world’s worst haircut)

This is not to say the film is boring, but is does lack any real scary or horrific moments. Granted the film’s genre is listed as Drama, Mystery and Thriller but this may be a way to save face as the plots elements scream out horror.  Unfortunately the film itself falls short of delivering any real disturbing or scary moments.

In fact, the scariest, most horrible, part of the entire film is when Mike Lawford closes his hand around air and discovers his son is gone.  A close second comes when the beat cop at the carnival/fair seems more concerned about keeping the professor calm than helping the man find his son.

Pay the Ghost is a pale imitation of other the other films in the cocktail shaker, as the movie nears the  third act a medium/psychic is brought in and she moves the plot forward to get Mike Lawford ready to play saviour.

The film itself has characters that are never really allowed to become more than cardboard cutouts.  It feels as though the film’s director  had problems deciding what the movie’s focus  should really be.  Considering the movies distribution   was a combination of VoD and limited theatrical release  it appears that even the studio felt let down at the final product.

Pay the Ghost is currently streaming on Netflix and this feels like the  appropriate place for a film that is neither fish nor fowl.  It could have been an outright horror film, albeit not a blazingly original one, as it had the propensity to be scary rather than just mildly interesting.

This is a 3 star film, nothing too exciting yet not so abysmal that one should avoid it completely.  Best seen with a bowl of popcorn,  a glass of fizzy and low expectations.

Colony: New/Old Dystopian Dictatorship (Review)

USA network has gone for a new “old” story of occupation by a mysterious superior force that plunges residents into a dystopian society in Colony.

Colony - Pilot

USA network has gone for a new “old” story of occupation by a mysterious superior force that plunges residents into a dystopian society in Colony. Show creators Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal (Hercules) looked at occupied Paris during the second world war and asked how modern families and the average person would react to a new version of Nazi control.  In this instance, the controlling faction are mysterious in origin, the viewer has no idea where the “hosts’ come from or who, or what, they are.

The pilot takes place after the new hosts have taken over. Los Angeles is surrounded by an insurmountable wall and we meet the series protagonist, Will “Sullivan” aka Bowman, who  was an FBI agent before the occupation.  Like other law enforcement officials, Bowman changed his name and went “off the grid” after the new government was put into place by the suppressors.

Like the people of France, or indeed like the oppressed people from the director’s pervious home of Argentina in the 1970s, the show asks a number of questions. How far would you go to protect your family? Would you put your family’s safety over that of your fellow man? More importantly, would you be a collaborator or join the resistance?

Colony, in the pilot makes it pretty clear that modern man in the greater Los Angeles is pretty resilient. The blackmarket is alive and well. The barter system is used to purchase many things, including substandard insulin, which the new hosts deem unnecessary in an attempt to weed out the weak.

Will Bowman (Sullivan) is played by another Lost alumnus, Josh Holloway.  Working as a mechanic, Josh’s character is struggling to maintain an air of normalcy for his segmented family. He risks it all to find the son that was caught outside the city when the new hosts invaded and took over. 

Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) is Will’s wife Katie, who appears to be equally capable and as tough as her ex-cop husband. The two have a splendid chemistry together, as do the two child actors who play their children.

The walled in city is patrolled by drones and a militaristic police force called “red hats.” Colony’s denizens face a life of fear, control, curfews, and being sent to “the factory.” Collaborators enjoy special privileges, in a way quite similar to the “elite” in “Soylent Green, just not quite so extreme.

The pilot looks interesting enough to warrant a longer look, i.e. checking out further episodes to see where this story will go. Colony could be seen as a modern morality tale based upon historical fact.

Colony - pilot
Josh Holloway – Will Bowman

A strong cast, along with a disturbing present day feel, makes this an interesting offering.  LA looks no different from what one might see while driving down to the local shop. Except, fences are topped with razor wire and the city itself is surrounded by a huge, shiny wall. Movement between blocs is strictly controlled and the new regime are hunting constantly to find members of the resistance.

The series will premiere January 14, 2016 on USA. Tune in and see what the world could be like under a non-benevolent dictatorship of mysterious hosts.