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Fine, sure, “Pay the Ghost” if you have to. But do not pay good American money to see the movie of the same name.

It cannot be honestly stated that “Pay the Ghost” is the worst film Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage has ever made; as of late, the competition for that honor has grown fierce. But it is certainly a pick-up-a-paycheck endeavor, a silly horror flick with no real scares that ends up rolling in the sort of special effects nonsense that too often stands in for a narrative climax these days.

Cage plays Mike Lawford, a college professor who teaches — wouldn’t you know it? — horror fiction at some nameless NYC university. He’s married to Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies) and they have a young son, Charlie (Jack Fulton). Charlie has lately been seeing spooky things.

On Halloween night, Mike takes Charlie to a neighborhood carnival. They’re waiting to get ice cream when poof, Charlie vanishes. Mike searches everywhere for him, but the kid is gone.

This does not endear him to Kristen, so a year later they’re separated. But then mysterious signs lead Mike to a building which has “Pay the ghost” — the last thing Charlie said to Mike — spray-painted on it.

After much investigation, Mike realizes that a ghost is stealing three kids from the streets every Halloween. All he has to do now is track down the ghost and … do what exactly? Does it take credit cards?

It’s all fairly senseless, right up to the nonsequitur coda that caps the film off. Isn’t it about time for Cage to have a comeback, to suddenly stumble into a good movie and re-establish his once-good reputation? Let’s hope it happens sooner, rather than later.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Pay the Ghost’

GRADE: D+

Not rated

Running time: 94 minutes

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