Direct cinematic sequels find themselves in a prickly spot, especially sequels in which their predecessor seemed to have ended the narrative so completely. Do you continue to build the world that was introduced, no matter what leaps in logic that may demand, or do you create a new story in that same universe? In the case of The Pact II, written and directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, it never really commits to either of these options. Instead, the film attempts a razor-thin tightrope walk between the story from the first film and an entirely new film. The question is then, does it manage this balancing act or does it plummet to its creative death?
The Pact II mostly involves itself with an entirely new cast, which leads one to assume the film is going to attempt the equivalent of a cinematic spinoff. Not so fast though, through some well placed cameos, and a minor plot twist, it is revealed that the all new cast, especially our protagonist June(Camilla Luddington), has more than a passing connection with the previous film.
This is the point of the film where the narrative jumps up on that aforementioned razor-thin tightrope. Part spinoff, part direct continuation, The Pact II has a strange mixture of scenes that are completely independent of its predecessor, and scenes that are completely reliant on the viewer’s knowledge of the first film. What results is an uneven and sometimes confusing experience. Not confusing in the narrative sense, but in the pacing and continuity sense. A lot of the time the Pact II feels like two separate film concepts edited together in a mash-up.
This isn’t to say the Pact II is a failure, on the contrary really. The majority of the film plays like an effective crime procedural with a bit of a horror on top. It glides by quickly enough, and nothing seems especially clunky. But in the background, the uneven pacing and differing narrative approaches causes a bit of disengagement from the viewer. It’s as if two statisticians, Hallam and Horvath in this case, are trying to solve the same problem with completely different formulas. They both arrive at the same solution, but when they’re asked to show their work, something doesn’t quite add up.
So while The Pact II isn’t a film that one could call bad, it is disengaging and mildly confusing on a creative level. For the most part it is a totally serviceable thriller/horror that will entertain for the running time it puts forth. As the credits roll, however, the film already begins to fade from memory. The narrative tightrope attempted doesn’t result in disaster but it does prevent the film from ever really clicking in any unified way.