About: Probably the horror movie that pained me the most to watch in recent years, and that’s saying something after It Follows and The Conjuring, Pay the Ghost is a compilation of horror movie cliche after horror movie cliche. The worst part is it’s not even the good kind of bad. Well, regardless, let’s break it down. Pay the Ghost stars Nicholas Cage as Mike Cole, a Professor that works too much and is late coming home often. His son and wife spend Halloween Night out without him since Mike was running late. However, Mike attempts to make it up to his son by taking him out to the carnival that same night for just a bit. While at the carnival, Charlie goes missing. Almost a year later, Mike starts seeing Charlie and strange ghost-like images. It turns out through his research, that many kids have also gone missing on Halloween, but unlike other days less of them have been recovered. Diving deeper, him and his wife played by Sarah Callies, learn that their son was really taken by a ghost who has abducted many other children over the years since she was burned at the stake many years ago. But it turns out, only the children taken in the past year can be saved. Can Mike break his son out of the spirit world in time? Is this movie just a giant cliche?
Spoilers potentially a-Oh who cares, this film sucks! Read the entire thing even if you haven’t watched the movie.
When Charlie begins to see an obvious cgi vulture circling around and strange figures outside his bedroom window, his mom doesn’t believe him, because we are not going to write anything original in this film at all, damn it! That takes actual work and stuff!
Kristen, his mother, comforts Charlie after seeing the figure at night and tells him to stay in bed with her until his father gets home and can tuck him back in to his own bed. But Charlie’s dad is at work late at night as usual, because we have to have an overly cliched bad father in this movie for… Reasons? Because, when he saves Charlie we can see how much he really does care! But, regardless, dad comes home and makes a promise that he will be on time for once and help Charlie carve a pumpkin tomorrow before they go out trick-or-treating for Halloween.
But because we demanded to have that cliche father that makes a promise and immediately breaks it, Charlie’s dad doesn’t make it in time. After coming back from trick-or-treating, Mike convinces Kristen to let him take Charlie to the local Halloween Carnival… Wait, they have those? Anyway, they go to the carnival where Charlie and his dad have a good time… Filming and… Just walking around. Hey, wait, did Jack Skellington just walk by? THAT IS DISTRACTING, FILM.
Anyhow, Charlie keeps seeing weird stuff because we need jump-scares, eventually leading up to him disappearing despite Mike holding hands with him.
And because we have to stick to cliches, the cop doesn’t believe him and is bad at his job when Mike rushes up to tell him that his son is missing. RIGHT. Because any cop that just heard that a kid went missing would suggest that the kid just went home. BUT the Detective they call later is better, right? Oh no… We have to keep with the trope and make sure that the Detective suggests that the kid might have run away from home.
So after a pointless “it was all a dream” cliche scene where Mike sees Charlie just so we can get jump-scared, we cut away to a year later. Because nothing significant happened in that entire year. And whoa, what do you know! The parents got divorced because the wife blames the husband cliche got in here too!
Mike is still searching for his son though and knows that he is out there somewhere!
But don’t worry, now that a year has passed, our hero is seeing his son again. He chases Charlie down after spotting him on the bus, only to discover when he boards the bus that Charlie wasn’t there after all. SHOCKER!
Fortunately, this series of events leads our protagonist closer to a building where he sees graffiti that says “Pay the Ghost,” which happens to be the very last thing Charlie talked about before he disappeared. This leads him to a group of homeless people… And oh, hey look! The blind clairvoyant homeless person trope is in here too! Whoa, I had no idea that was going to be in there! So, as Nicholas Cage stares awkwardly at the camera, we cut to him going back to the wife to convince her of what he saw. But of course, this wouldn’t be an overly cliched movie if she believed him at first! So of course we have the “I don’t have time for this” “please believe me” dialogue before we get a SCOOTER JUMP-SCARE that causes Kristen to believe him. So together the two travel around finding obscure clues to what the ghost is and how it all ties together so that they can save their son. The detective begins to actually get a brain and start researching into it, but after the psychic they hires is killed by the ghost by being burned from the inside out, all chances of character development for that guy go right out the window and we kinda… Just forget about him?
But it’s okay! Because Cage is going to save the day! He uses a bridge to the underground that the old blind homeless man has but didn’t tell Cage about before because.. Well… Because, reasons?
But Cage only has until Midnight to rescue his son and bring him back… Or he’ll turn into a pumpkin! Uh, wait, hold on, got our wires crossed. And, naturally, he does with some help of the old kidnapped children that can’t return because… Also, because reasons! He also rescues two other children we were told about as well.
The Scares(?): The scares are pretty much non-existent in this film. Sure, they attempt to scare you, but they are all the same overly used jump-scares and build ups that we all know. The cut-aways used to emphasize the jumps are also distracting and poorly executed, leading you to get the feeling that they thought the scares weren’t going to work themselves and decided to cut scenes real quick so you wouldn’t notice. At no point did I actually feel shocked by this film and the actors were so bland and uninteresting that even when they were supposed to be in peril, the acting didn’t do a good job of conveying it.
Overall: The sad thing is that this movie really seemed to take itself seriously. If it had embraced the cliches, or at least delivered one or two unique memorable moments that broke away from it or even some good acting, it would have been a better movie. Instead what we are left with is a jumble of overly used, tired tropes we’ve seen a million and one times. If you are bored and on Netflix, you could play this in the background but don’t spend your hard earned money on this movie.