Review: The Pact – A Slow-Burn Mystery for the Zoom Era4 September 2020
Bitten By Production’s 2020 theatrical season was one of the many creative casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to be stymied by the lockdown performance drought, the company has produced a 14-episode miniseries instead, bringing together a team of emerging writers to create a compelling story from isolation. The episodes are punchy and short, telling a complex and interweaving story of youthful mistakes, responsibility and the pain of growing up.
The Pact’s mystery unravels as Morgan (Rose Flanagan), a twenty-something, Berlin-dwelling Aussie with a dark and damaged past, gets a call from her half-brother (Chris Farrell). He tells her some startling news; her ex-boyfriend Brett (James Biasetto) is missing. The series details Morgan’s conversations with family and friends as she tries to find out what happened to Brett. As she digs, it becomes clear that Morgan has secrets of her own which threaten her new life.
The series’ strength is in its use of the now ultra-familiar web camera aesthetic – the one-on-one conversations feel juicy in their intimacy. Thrillers like The Pact lend themselves well to web series – the inherent intrigue of the mystery genre makes it hard to resist clicking play on episode after episode. In an era where almost every aspect of our daily lives are playing out on the screens of our phones, tablets and laptops, watching complicated and at times heartbreaking moments play out between two distanced people felt poignant and impactful. In The Pact, the audience are made into voyeurs, enticed into the story beyond screen media’s usual scopophilia. Watching on my laptop, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was a silent participant, watching a Skype call with my microphone muted and the camera off.
By its nature, The Pact is dialogue driven. The team of writers have created a cohesive, teasing mystery, peppering information about Morgan’s past between realistic-feeling small talk and family ribbing. As the series progresses, casual conversations give way to emotional confrontations which force Morgan to confront her own decisions. Answers are hinted at as we are drip-fed information about an unfortunate incident between Morgan, Brett and Brett’s sister Jade, played brilliantly by Tatiana Kotsimbos. As Morgan, Rose Flanagan is our guide through the emotional rollercoaster of The Pact, appearing in every episode. Flanagan captures Morgan’s prickly attitude and her vulnerability in equal measure. Even more than the mystery around her, unravelling who Morgan really is and what she’s done as the episodes unfold is a rewarding and pleasurable viewing experience. Her performance in episode nine is five minutes of gold.
Understandably, the visual aspects of The Pact can become monotonous – each episode features two people, each sitting in from of their webcam, with little variation in shot construction. But for all that each shot is fairly similar, the production has injected some novelty to each scene, varying backdrops and costumes to add touches of visual interest. More than that, the strong ensemble of actors keep the series engaging, as well as the adept editing by John Steven Erasmus. The episodes, particularly the later ones, feel well-paced and make for excellent iso-binge watching, especially as director Peter Blackburn builds the show to a feverish and genuinely unexpected conclusion in the last few episodes. For a first foray into screen production, The Pact feels confident and bold, an absorbing treat to keep lockdown interesting.
The Pact is now available to watch on YouTube.
Directed By: Peter Blackburn
Edited By: John Steven Erasmus
Cast: Rose Flanagan, Chris Farrell, James Biasetto, Tatiana Kotsimbos, Greg Caine, Michelle Robertson, Laila Thaker, Enzo Nazario, Justin Anderson.
Writers: Gabriel Bergmoser, Kath Atkins, Damian Robb, Kashmir Sinnamon, Kate Murfett, Karl Sarsfield, Bonnie McRae, John Erasmus, Eli Landes.