ArtsCinema & TV

“Pay The Ghost” is a Ghost of a Story

We have an instinctive distrust of any film that starts with a jump scare. Partly because it’s a cheap trick – mostly because we don’t enjoy sitting through a whole 94-minute flick with soiled pants. The main weapon of horror still scares this writer, much to his chagrin.

The writer confesses he’s an extremely easy person to scare. Horror just isn’t our forte. The fact that the writer’s seat smelt faintly of vomit didn’t help at all to distract from the fear. Luckily, “Pay The Ghost” isn’t all horror. Nor is it much of a movie.

Nicholas Cage is Mike Cole, a professor with a penchant for dramatic literature oratory whose son is abducted on Halloween night. A year on, Cole still fervently searches for his child as the next Halloween looms around the corner.


Desperately clutching at straws, Mike uncovers a possible supernatural air to his predicament. He learns of the tale of a scorned lady, burned at the stake, cursing the world by taking three kids every Halloween and he begins working to retrieve his son from the spectre.

We’ll just say up front that there isn’t much of a story nor originality in “Pay The Ghost”. It’s not set in a stuffy dank dungeon nor claustrophobic rotting woods, but there’s not much going in terms of breaths of fresh air in the film.

One of a few glaring qualms we have is the forced and awkward acting between Nicholas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies (Kristen, Mike’s wife) and Jack Fulton (Charlie, the son). Ghosts don’t have a lot of life in them but interactions between the three are essentially flat-lining.


However, Cage, forever loved for his contribution to internet memes with his expressive method acting, delivers very believable emotions throughout. In fact, Callies does too. The duo’s depiction of estranged parents left bereft of their son is definitely a highlight.

The best aspect of “Pay The Ghost” is the mix of thriller and horror as Mike uncovers more clues behind his son’s disappearance and of the many other Halloween disappearances (learnt from an enigmatic blind hobo). We dearly wished we saw more of this, particularly from the POV of the NYPD detective heading the absurd case. Sadly, it is left undeveloped even as it slowly becomes engrossing.

With appreciable deftness, “Pay The Ghost” employs the whole horror movie arsenal of up-close jump scares, looming camera angles, and a stifling lack of background music. Credit is given where it’s due as a workable atmosphere of suspense is created, though we still wish we could have been drawn in with a compelling tale before we shielded our eyes whenever the theatre becomes dead silent.


Lastly, we must muse: upon his disappearance, Mike couldn’t call his son as 7-year old Charlie doesn’t own a cellular. That’s not even believable – no 7-year old in this day and age even looks up from their handheld devices.

Every year, a horror movie that ties in with Halloween is inevitably released. And as with all horror movies, they can be pretty cheesy and are hit-or-miss. “Pay The Ghost” would be the latter, squandering its strengths with cheap scares and clichés. If you must, pay the cashier for a quick though uninspiring bout of fear with “Pay The Ghost”. We’ll stick with “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

DANamic.ORG Rating: 1/5

“Pay The Ghost” lands in Singapore theatres on 8th October 2015.

Manfred Tham

Metal is my jam and anything about video games, alcohol or films is a good conversation starter with me. Also a massive nerd.

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