PAY THE GHOST (2015) Reviews and overview

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‘Evil walks among us’

Pay the Ghost is a 2015 American supernatural horror film directed by Uli Edel (Evil Never Dies; The Little Vampire; Tales from the Crypt TV series: ‘Came the Dawn’) from a screenplay by Dan Kay (Timber Falls), based on a novella by Tim Lebbon. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lauren Beatty, Jack Fulton, and Elizabeth Jeanne le Roux.

A professor, Mike Lawford (Nicolas Cage) frantically searches for his son Charlie (Jack Fulton) who was abducted during a Halloween parade.

As nearly a year goes by, the parents are still looking for their son and starting to hear and see their son reaching out to them from the other world—the Professor sees his son on a passing bus, but upon chasing the bus down and gaining access, his son is not there.

He disembarks and notices spray painted on a building, “pay the ghost,” the phrase his son uttered before vanishing. He enters the building and finds homeless people living there.

Unearthly screams of a woman are heard, and a blind homeless man calls for the others to mask their fires, explaining to Mike that the screams are heard every year before Halloween…


Pay the Ghost doesn’t break any new ground, and neither does it try to as it emulates a well rehearsed ghost story and a visual style seen in much of mainstream horror but with a decent script and some good performances from its cast, this film relies on its own merits to be an enjoyable journey.” Bloodguts UK Horror

” …too much of Pay The Ghost (up to and including a nonsensical mid-credits faux-shocker) consists of its characters flailing through the motions of supernatural encounters. The movie stays on the amusing side of lousy but never crosses over into good.” Jesse Hassenger, A.V. Club

“The film abuses jump scares and has a few CGI effects that don’t really manage to fully convincing, and even if the story ends up being a bit predictable as it ends up explaining the roots of the horror, the ghost and the disappearing kids, we are treated to some surprising imagery.” Jaime Grijalba Gomez, Screen Anarchy

” …Cage commits more to the performance than he normally does, working to make Mike’s ordeal psychologically punishing and physically exhausting. While the role isn’t a stretch, it works, emerging as the effort’s best chance to connect with the audience. The rest of Pay the Ghost doesn’t carry the same enthusiasm.” Brian Orndorf,

” …a solemn Nicolas Cage searches across fantastical realms for his missing son with all the urgency of a morning run to Starbucks. Hardly anyone here, from cast to director to the below-the-line craftsmen, appears to have put in more than the bare minimum of professional effort, and the lack of enthusiasm proves contagious.” Andrew Barker, Variety

“There are cheap jump scares sprinkled throughout the story to remind you this is supposed to be a horror film, but honestly they just get in the way. I was more intrigued by the mystery of the boy’s disappearance and was enjoying the well made creepy atmosphere the movie craftily presented. There are even some extremely violent and terrifying bits that are unexpected but welcome.” April Bennett, Wicked Horror

” …it really isn’t that bad. Apparently, Edel discovered the magic word that convinced Cage to turn down the mania. Maybe it was “IRS.” Regardless, he indulges in minimal nostril-flaring throughout what is arguably his most restrained performance in years.” Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins

“Unconvincing in premise or setting (the couple’s gloomily cavernous home suggests that teaching salaries have soared since I was in academia), Dan Kay’s filament-thin story, accessorized with flapping vultures and disturbing graffiti, relies entirely on Mr. Cage’s desperate-dad energy. Sludgy greens and smudged blacks assault the eyes, and crashing sound cues accompany every scare…” Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times

“A Halloween movie starring Nicolas Cage should be an insanely fun romp that entertains from start to finish. Sadly, Pay the Ghost is a chore to sit through and rarely makes good use of its holiday setting. The film takes itself far too seriously and avoids being even remotely fun in the process.” Blair Hoyle, Cinema Slasher

” …we get a watered down Nicolas Cage behind a pair of scholarly glasses and going crazy rather than the action movie Nic tearing his shirt off in inchoate rage as he settles things with his fists. Not to say that Uli Edel doesn’t give us moments that have a mild eeriness – a child’s scooter moving through the apartment of its own accord, flickers of tablets and camcorders coming to life…” Richard Scheib, Moria

“There are some over-the-top deaths reminiscent of The Omen, but for the most part, it’s about how the loss of a child tears a parent’s world apart.  Initially, I thought this was going to be kind of like a horror version of Stolen. However, it has a decent mythology surrounding its mysterious specter and Edel delivers an occasional creepy moment.” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

” …Cage plays 90% of Pay the Ghost straight, which is a shame because his off-the-wall antics and expressionistic meltdowns would have definitely mitigated extreme boredom and lazy writing into something possibly worth remembering for laughs.” Robert Kojder, Flickering Myth

Cast and characters:

  • Nicolas Cage as Mike Lawford – Mom and Dad; Season of the Witch; Ghost Rider and sequel; The Wicker Man
  • Sarah Wayne Callies as Kristen
  • Lauren Beatty as Annie Sawquin
  • Jack Fulton as Charlie
  • Elizabeth Jeanne le Roux as Mom
  • Erin Boyes as Emily
  • Alex Mallari Jr.
  • Lyriq Bent as Detective Reynolds
  • Veronica Ferres as Hannah
  • Juan Carlos Velis as Morales
  • Sam Velasquez as Joey “Streets” García

Filming locations:

  • New York City, New York (establishing shots)
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada


On September 25, 2015, by RLJ Entertainment issued the film in a limited release, and through video on demand (VOD). It is currently available on Netflix.

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