This indie horror opens with an in-your-face scary moment. On the eve of her mother’s funeral, single mum Nicole is saying goodnight to her daughter on her laptop when the little girl asks ‘Who’s that behind you, mommy?’ Nicole then disappears into a very dark closet… It’s a scene that bodes well of things to come.

The next day, Nicole’s wild child biker sister Annie arrives and – with Nicole nowhere to be found – is forced to attend the funeral alone. Returning to the childhood home that holds terrible memories for her, Annie senses she isn’t alone – something supernatural is lurking in the shadows. When the ghostly force turns violent, Annie is forced to flee the pre-fab bungalow – and its garish wallpaper – and seek the assistance of a skeptical detective, played by Casper Van Dien (who is wearing his age well, like a rugged Clint Walker).

After finding a secret room (one she has no memory of), Annie turns supernatural sleuth, and engages the services of a blind psychic (just like in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond) to help her unlock the mystery, that could have connections to 30-year-old unsolved murder case.

Like Ti West’s The Innkeepers (read my review here) and the forthcoming Lovely Molly, from The Blair Witch Project‘s Eduardo Sanchez, The Pact is one of a handful of supernatural thrillers featuring strong female central roles being released of late. Part ghost story, part whodunit, it really does pack a wallop with its carefully plotted scares. The best one, unfortunately, crops up in the trailer. So, be warned.

The Pact also wholly embraces the internet as the main tool in the detective work. There’s a scene (that hints at Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up) where Annie attempts to discover the identity of a person in an old photo. Thankfully, she has Global Maps (Google were probably too expensive) that proves invaluable in her search.

Solidly acted, with a real Dario Argento giallo vibe going on, The Pact is a powerful debut from director Nicholas McCarthy, and a first-rate American horror story.

The Pact is released in UK cinemas from 8 June

[swf]http://uk.player.filmtrailer.com/v3.1/&mid=10437&channel_user_id=441100180-1&repeat=1&volume=0[/swf]

To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.