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Cage Match Round 8 – Pay The Ghost

Cage Match is an ongoing look at Nicolas Cage’s output from the last decade or so. I’m watching, reviewing and ranking all those movies that barely played in theatres or went straight to DVD. What are these movies all about? Which one is the best? There can be only one true Cage movie of note. Join me and let’s find out together!

Our eighth contender in the Cage is Pay the Ghost a 1hr 34min, 2015 horror movie.

Estimated Budget: Unknown , Gross Worldwide: $2,914,020

What’s Cage up to this time?

It’s time for Spooky Cage! I appreciate the variety I’m getting in these movies, it’s keeping me on my toes. In this one, Cage is Mike Lawford, one of those classic movie dads who ignores their kid because work takes priority. So you know he has to learn some sort of lesson about that and here the lesson is having his kid vanish on Halloween night, potentially because of witch reasons. Take that you workaholic! Maybe next time you’ll put down the work and pay attention to your kid so witches don’t get him!

Who else is in the cage?

The cast for this one is pretty small but Mike’s wife, Kristen, is played by Sarah Wayne Callies of Prison Break fame, though she also deserves some love for Into the Storm. Callies gets a bit of a meatier role than I expected. In Rage I lamented how Rachel Nichols was given nothing to do but stand around and cry and while of course there is some of that here (a witch maybe took their son, a few tears are expected) she is a far more involved character than I expected.

The director is Uli Edel who has done a lot of other stuff but only thing I’ve heard of – the Jonathan Lipnicki…classic?…The Little Vampire.

I’m just now learning it was based on a novel by Tim Lebbon, whose name I recognize because he wrote The Silence, which they adapted into a not very good Stanley Tucci movie.

 Is the movie worthy of Cage?

I’m very aware that I work the phrase “as a fairly new father” into a lot of my reviews these days but…ok as a fairly new father, obviously the plot of losing your kid is going to hit me pretty hard. There’s nothing more terrifying to me than the idea of turning around for two seconds only for your kid to be gone, which is why I will keep a vice grip on mine until they are least 27. No thanks Halloween Witch Lady, get yourself another kid!

I thought Pay the Ghost did a good job handling the panic of those moments where Mike realizes his son (whose name is Charlie, something I remember because in a movie like this you are going to hear people yell his name a loooooot) is missing. The immediate “oh he must have just gone over there” reaction, followed by the growing panic that he is nowhere to be found is genuinely distressing. It gets even more upsetting when he gets home to his wife and has to explain “by the way, remember how we had a son when I left? Welllll….”

The movie then cops out a little by flash forwarding a year later so we don’t really see the immediate aftermath of everything. By this point, their marriage has obviously fallen apart and Mike has lost all enthusiasm for his job. He continues to hold on the hope that Charlie is still out there as he was never found. He is largely investigating on his own and he visits the cops so frequently that they are simply humouring him at this point. Turns out he’s right though and witch stuff is absolutely afoot and maybe he can still save his son from the witch stuff!

Kristen does quickly join Mike on the investigation which I liked. At first she has no tolerance for Mike’s theories but once events make it undeniable that something is clearly going on, she hops on board and is right there by his side. I liked that the movie didn’t waste a lot of time having either character furiously deny that something supernatural is happening. The investigation itself will feel very familiar to anyone who has seen…well, a movie, before. They do some research, luckily stumble upon the one person who happens to know everything there is to know about this whole witch problem and there are a handful of jump scares along the way.

The low budget really starts to show in the final act when there’s a confrontation and a heavier reliance on special effects. Did you see the 1999 version of The House on Haunted Hill? You remember at the end when the big threat showed up and it was just a pile of CGI that was hard to take seriously? There’s a similar vibe here. There are not enough effects to be exciting but just enough for the whole thing to look cheesy. Everything is also wrapped up just a little too neatly at the end.

That’s not to say the movie is bad. There’s nothing here that makes it terrible, but there’s not enough here to make it rise above a pile of other disposable horror movies. It simply…is. It follows a predictable path and remains consistently fine enough that I wanted to see it through to the end.

How Cage-y is Cage?

There’s an early classroom scene where Cage is showing some enthusiasm for Poe, but other than that he is entirely in Mopey Cage mode. He does a perfectly good job in the role but there’s not a lot here that requires stretching of his acting muscles.

You bought the blu-ray?! Are there bonus features at least?!

Not a one which is too bad because I would have been curious to hear more about this movie and why the people behind it felt that it was something that had to get made. It might have helped me to appreciate it a little more than I did.

Should you get into this cage?

As someone who is watching all of these Nic Cage movies and selected the movie through a random number generator, I didn’t mind the time I spent with it. As you are almost certainly not that someone, I don’t think there’s enough here to recommend you check it out. If you are absolutely starved for new horror content then sure, but other than that, I think you can safely carry on with your day. It has only been a few days between watching the movie and writing these words and I’m already struggling to remember significant portions of it so it’s as forgettable as can be.

Where does it rank?

The only movie that has a shot at going above this one is Primal. While Primal was disappointing for not living up to its wild premise, Pay the Ghost is disappointing for being content to merely exist rather than try anything special. So, I think Primal has to get the slight edge.

As it stands:

Vengeance: A Love Story
Running with the Devil
Pay the Ghost
Left Behind

Published inMovie Reviews

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