Movie Review: Pay the Ghost

What does a typical B-grade horror movie consist of? Pay the Ghost tells us it’s the excessive use of jump scares (already exploited in the very first scene) and unrealistic CGI.

Directed by Uli Edel, the movie is set in modern day New York City. Mike Lawford (Nicolas Cage) is a hardworking literature professor who finally gets tenured, much to the delight of his wife Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies). His son Charlie (Jack Fulton) constantly yearns to spend more time with him and makes his father promise to spend Halloween carving pumpkins together. But when Lawford fails to do so, he tries to make it up by bringing Charlie to the Halloween carnival.


Charlie, who already has eerie visions prior, ominously asks his father, “Dad, can we pay the ghost?” while buying ice cream. He then mysteriously disappears, leaving Lawford in shock. For one year, Lawford does not give up on looking for his son, constantly pestering detectives and convincing his estranged wife that their son is trying to communicate with them from the other side. Eventually, he learns that the supernatural is indeed involved in the disappearance of his beloved child. Cage and Fulton’s onscreen father-son relationship is heartfelt enough, but there it would be better if they could touch on more family issues often faced in the real world and in this case, it would be family neglect.

In short, child goes missing and father is willing to go all out to look for said missing child, and will not rest until they are back home. It does feel like the plot is being lifted from another award winning action thriller, Taken. Except Liam Neeson was a better badass by heaps.

The storyline may not have been the most creative, but it had enough substance to build up and induce some chill to the spine on this writer. Sadly, the ending was a huge anti-climax with laughable special effects. Lawford also approaches the bunch of spooky, lifeless children with braveness that is very unrealistic. We really wonder how he could casually stick his hand out and try to touch them. Does a father’s love for his child really overcome fear by this much?

The most frustrating part about this movie is the lack of closure towards less major characters who were conveniently “sacrificed” and forgotten about when Lawford and his wife tries to figure out the ghostly happenings with their help. Lawford’s assistant, Hannah (Veronica Ferres), tries to be a good Samaritan by helping them to read up on Celtic Halloween history and dies following an unfortunate accident involving a building (Though, we’re not sure it was entirely an ‘accident’). The movie then continues on to Lawford frantically trying to bring his son back from the other side. Nobody cared enough to find out about Hannah or recover her dead body, apparently.

Average plot with loopholes aside, Nicolas Cage’s acting is in peak form as compared to his slightly more awkward co-stars, who seem to lack the right emotions at crucial scenes. It is, however, hard to take his expressions seriously especially when he becomes wide-eyed with fear thanks to that notorious “You Don’t Say” meme.

Guess it also seems like the typical B-grade horror movie consists of a forgettable storyline, and a ludicrous amount of fearlessness in confronting supernatural creatures.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Release date: 8 October 2015

Runtime: 94 minutes

Rating: PG13

Genre: Thriller

Director: Uli Edel

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jack Fulton, Veronica Ferres

What did you think about Pay the Ghost? Let us know in the comments below!

(Photos courtesy of Shaw Singapore)