Following up a 2012 indie original that was a modest sleeper (especially in the U.K.), “The Pact 2” simply stretches out rather than elaborating on its predecessor’s already thin premise, creating holes that are poorly patched over with false scares and unconvincing character behavior. Unlikely to expand the audience for further “Judas Killer” antics, this soggy sequel from the writing-directing duo of Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath — neither of whom was involved in the first pic — launches theatrically Oct. 10 in New York, with Los Angeles following on Oct. 31. It’s already available on VOD in the U.S., and will likely make its primary coin in that format abroad as well.
The original “Pact,” directed by Nicholas McCarthy (whose sophomore feature, “At the Devil’s Door,” is in current release), generally made up in creepy atmosphere what it lacked in plot intricacy/originality, what with a decapitating villain who at first seemed to be a malevolent spirit, then was revealed to be still alive, then was killed … which, at the fadeout, appeared to be no impediment to his ongoing mayhem. “The Pact 2” can’t quite figure out what to do with the dead-but-still-possibly-deadly Charles Barlow, aka Judas Killer (gaunt, perpetually shirtless Mark Steger), who keeps materializing to goose the viewer and onscreen personnel by appearing briefly in bathroom mirrors and dim room corners. Is he just a figment of the imagination? Can he actually do any harm? Or is he just there to root on whoever is committing copycat killings in his old style?
Our heroine this time is June (Camilla Luddington, “Grey’s Anatomy”), who works solo cleaning up grisly crime scenes — there’s no real explanation for why she chose that profession — and is dating clean-cut young cop Daniel (Scott Michael Foster). Daniel is investigating a murder with his superior (Nicki Micheaux) when they’re barged in on by FBI Agent Ballard (Patrick Fischler), who had pursued the original perp and has been called in because this new slaying shows pointed similarities to the Judas Killer’s m.o. (Should they miss the connection, the new bad guy or girl also writes “He Showed Me The Way” on the ceiling with the victim’s blood.)
Brusque to a counterproductive degree, Ballard immediately makes a foe of Daniel, then puts off June by informing her she’s possibly in danger — because she’s the daughter of one of the real Judas Killer’s victims. This news is even more unpleasant because until now, June had no idea she was adopted by her very wobbly recovered-addict, on-probation mother (Amy Pietz). When Mom is attacked, June has a premonition of it, one of several supernatural elements here that the script never develops with any consistency or logic. Halfway through, June is joined by the prior pic’s protagonist, Annie (Caity Lotz), who reluctantly agrees to help her stop this new wave of bloodshed before it’s too late. They also too-briefly root out another survivor from the first film, intriguing psychic Stevie (Haley Hudson).
There’s little rhyme or reason to the sputtering narrative, which seems content simply to reprise the original’s general mood and situation rather than actually building anything on its foundation. Needless to say, it all ends with one of the more rote “The nightmare continues! Because we say so!” fadeouts in recent memory, with no attempt whatsoever to explain why this particular evil keeps coming back.
Performances are OK, though this is one of those movies in which somebody thought it was a good idea to have most of the characters forever rattling each others’ nerves — a tactic that only makes their interactions more annoying, not more suspenseful. Indeed, tension is pretty tepid throughout, despite decent-enough assembly that includes some nice work from composer Carl Sondrol and d.p. Carmen Cabana. The title onscreen was presented as “The Pact II.”