PAY THE GHOST
US, 2015, 94 minutes, Colour.
Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lyriq Bent, Jack Fulton, Stephen Mc Hattie.
Directed by Uli Edel.
Nicolas Cage made several thrillers every year during the 2010 is. While he has some raging and anxious moments here, this is a more credible performance than usual – even if this ghost story stretches plausibility.
The film opens with a scene in 1679, local New Yorkers attacking a mother of three children, suspicious of her being a witch. She is burnt at the stake as her three children are executed. While this has an air of mystery for the opening of the film, there is a later, satisfactory explanation.
In the present, Nicolas Cage plays a professor who communicates with his classes, exploring ancient mythologies and poetry. He has a loving wife played by Sarah Wayne Callies, prominent in television series. And they have a young boy, Jack Fulton, who has nightmares, sees mysterious presences outside his window. The parents prepare a pirate costume for his tricking and treating for Halloween. His father, mother reluctant, takes him to the local fair where he suddenly disappears. The father is distraught searching for his son, the mother even more distraught and blaming her husband for his not protecting their son. And the police are involved in the search.
The culminating action takes place year later, both parents still distraught and separated, eventually experiencing what they interpret as some reaching out by their son to communicate with them. He had said to his father before disappearing, “Pay the Ghost”. This leads the father to underground caverns where street people live, eventually returning there and discovering a bridge, two hours opening, from this world to the other world.
The drama is the father crossing to the other world, finding the range of abducted children, finding his son and two other children who also had to pay the ghost.
For an undemanding audience which enjoys a spooky story, this one works fairly well.
1. The title? The opening in 1679, the mother and the deaths of the children? Modern times, the children asking their parents to pay the ghost?
2. The New York City setting? The flashback to 1679, the children in the cellar, the mother protecting them, the mob and the attack on the house, the later images of the execution of the mother and the children?
3. Familiar settings, college and lecture rooms, offices, homes, the streets? The Halloween setting, the children out in the streets, the Halloween fair? The police precincts? The visit to the parents of other abducted children, the slum area, the Chinese restaurant? The underground settlement for the street people? The mystery of the bridge to the other world?
4. Mike and Kristin, the work, Mike getting his professorship? Delayed for the cutting of the pumpkin, cowboy outfits, compensating by taking Charlie to the fair? The ice cream, Charlie’s instant disappearance? The frantic search, the police and their advice? Kristin, distraught, blaming Mike?
5. A year later, the separation of the parents, Mike and his being listless and boring in class, his reliance on Hannah and her support? Separated from Kristin? Going to the police, making his demands? The police response?
6. Intimations of Charlie calling out, Mike seeing him on the bus, pursuing the bus, his not being on the bus? Seeing the “Pay the Ghost” signs, going underground, meeting the Blind Man? Informing Jordan and the police? Kristin and her experiences, in the night, being transformed, carving the sign onto her arm? Believing Mike? Their going to the father of the
abducted girl? Jordan and his visiting the mother at the Chinese restaurant?
7. Hannah, the research, the information about 1679, the crying mother, the mob? Discovery of the portal open for two hours on Halloween? Her death, thrown out the window?
8. Mike, going back to the Blind Man, giving his watch, going across the bridge, into the portal, discovering all the children, finding Charlie, the other two children who came with him? Coming across the bridge, the confrontation by the crying mother, the audience seeing the flashbacks to what happened? The struggle, Mike and Charlie falling off the bridge, climbing back, escaping?
9. Audience relief at the happy ending?