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A Brief Review of "Pay the Ghost" (2015)

Did you see Pay the Ghost?  No?  Okay, I guess it's just me and the other seven people who Netflix suckered into watching.

It's a pretty crappy movie.  This is the part in my review where I usually try to be polite and say, "But it's not that bad" and I say some middle-of-the-road things, except the nicest thing I can think to say is that it deserves only a 2 / 5 instead of a 1 / 5.

It commits all the classic sins of run-of-the-mill supernatural thrillers: over-reliance on jump scares, frustrating characters, marginalization of minorities, and a predictably vengeful ghost.  If I say, "it's a generic crappy horror movie," I think you'll be able to play it in your head from start to finish.

What makes it most frustrating is that there are a handful of genuinely creepy and effective moments that are immediately undercut by cliches and nonsense.  As if the movie suddenly woke up and remembered that it's supposed to be a generic crappy horror movie and it's not allowed to be interesting.

A good example: Nicolas Cage, who is searching for his son who went missing at a Halloween carnival the year prior, looks at some footage that his son took with a video camera mere moments before his disappearance.  He sets the camera down and it turns on by itself, displaying weird, distorted images when he's not looking.  And then the camera is never mentioned again - as if the ghosts were just fucking with it for our benefit, but then they got bored.

There's another scene where Cage has a cloudy vision of a remote cabin, and slowly the image of a dozen pallid, sickly children comes into focus.  This part is unsettling, and if the vision dissipated it would just be a subtle little moment of insanity.  But, no, Pay the Ghost isn't a mood piece - it's an in-your-face turd, so naturally the vengeful ghost pops up and goes "Boo!" really loudly.  Remember when the movie was quiet and eerie a second ago?  Oh, man, that was intense.  Lucky thing the ghost came and scared all the atmosphere away.

And so on.

But I've got to be honest.  The only reason I wrote about this movie today is because it makes use of one of my most hated cliches in movies.

Right after Cage's son disappears, he starts frantically running through a crowd and calling his kid's name while passersby try to get out of his way and/or look on in awkward silence.  Then he sees a young boy who looks sorta like his son from behind, so he runs up to grab him by the shoulder... and it's not his kid.  Resume running.

Uh... no?

No, if you run up and grab a kid in the middle of a crowd, you do not get to keep running.  Especially not if the kid's parent is standing there and looked you straight in the face and said, "What the hell are you doing?"  At the very least, you need to apologize.

Any time this trope plays out, I either want a parent to punch the protagonist in the face, or I want the movie to smash cut to him in handcuffs while a couple of cops interrogate him.  Movie heroes get away with too much rude shit.

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