Pay the Ghost Blu-ray review
The movie opens with a prologue set in the 1600s, with shots of pentagrams and children hiding in a cellar. All of a sudden, something smashes through the floorboards. Yes, this will come up later.
In the present day, a college professor named Mike Cole (Nicolas Cage, in his second movie of 2015, after THE RUNNER) comes home to find his son, Charlie (Jack Fulton, who appeared in Netflix’s HEMLOCK GROVE), and wife, Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies, who appeared in the first three seasons of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD), asleep in bed. Charlie had stayed up late waiting for his father, who had opted to stay late at work. To make up for it, Mike promises to take Charlie trick-or-treating the next day.
After predictably missing the tricks and treats, Mike decides to take his little pirate to the carnival, which seems less suitable for a kid on Halloween than it does, say, Nicolas Cage on a weeknight. It’s there that Charlie, who had been disturbed by frightening images all night, goes missing. As the year goes by and the first anniversary comes up, Mike starts seeing visions of his son and hearing him call out faintly as if near but in another dimension.
With all of the elements in place—a missing boy, a frantic father, ominous buzzards—Cage is allowed to run around screaming, eye up unusual behavior and interact with a group of homeless people. That, along with the addition of cheap jump scares and editing room-concocted spooks, is pretty much what PAY THE GHOST has to offer.
PAY THE GHOST is directed by German Uli Edel, whose previous works include 2008’s THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX and the 2014 History channel miniseries HOUDINI, which earned seven Emmy nominations (Edel himself was nominated for Best Director in the category). Considering what Edel had at his disposal—a sloppy screenplay and Cage, who must have been aware that this would be one of those movies where he could show up and turn in a bargain bin performance yet still earn a paycheck—it’s not surprising that his latest effort is a complete dud.
Some viewers might find promise in the early scenes, with Cage’s professor cherishing the books of Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. But these namedrops don’t seem to be there to hint at the tone of the movie. Rather, they seem to come up simply so Dan Kay could prove that he had heard of men who actually knew how to write horror stories. These appreciations do nothing to serve the story and instead work to make the viewer wonder, How much is The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft on Amazon? (It’s $20.44 as of publication of this review.)
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong blacks are deep throughout.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clean and the cheap scare moments come through with the intended effect.
There are no special features on this release.