Recently released through Arrow UK, ‘The Pack’, an Australian indie film turns the home invasion genre completely on its head as a young family are terrorised on their homestead by a pack of feral dogs.
The first, and most obvious movie which springs to mind here has got to be 1983’s ‘Cujo’ (inspired of course by the Stephen King novel released 2 years before). The film, as patchy as it was, had a great concept, and here, in ‘The Pack’ the concept, helped in big part by some exceptional camera work, works really well as a modern horror film - even if the idea of a pack of dogs is perhaps not as terrifying as the creatures found in most monster movies!
The plot, as I have already hinted, sees a young family struggling to make ends meet on their remote farm. Unexplained numbers of livestock deaths, harassed by the bank for repayments, a teenage daughter who hates everything about the family’s rural life, things are simply not going well for them. Matters are not improved when a group of feral dog’s setup camp for the evening outside of their house. That evening everyone gets back to nature as the family must rely on their instincts to survive the onslaught of ‘The Pack’.
The plot is pretty much the back-of-the-box synopsis and for all intents and purposes it follows a satisfyingly linear path. The plot itself just about holds up the 90 minutes and that’s not to say there aren’t some issues with continuity – there are huge numbers of family decisions which have to be simply overlooked as the film makers lead you by the hand from one scene to the next, and if you wanted to pick some major faults with the movie’s plot I am sure you could, but this is horror entertainment and not Animal Planet, so for sheer enjoyments sake they can be overlooked.
This sort of movie is all about the suspense, and from this perspective ‘The Pack’ delivers. Things start as they mean to go on, first with the families livestock issues, then with the foreclosure of their estate –from the get go you are routing for the underdog’s (if you forgive the pun). To support the atmosphere, the quality of the camera work and cinematography is sublime. The vista of rural Australia is stunning. If you are hoping the audience feels the isolated vulnerability of the family, you have to put them there. I loved the whole feel of the movie from this aspect, with some amazing sequences which were made as effective purely because of the way it was shot. Mixing vibrant colours, e.g. floodlit bright green grass or luscious explosions against the silky black of the night, really gave this film some style of its own. The acting is reasonable, although I was finding the clichéd lines delivered rather forcibly by the films ‘strong’ female lead a little taxing, I really got on board with the families plight. Besides her, I didn’t really want to see the family eaten by the dogs!
Needless to say, the film would be made or ruined by the authenticity and quality of the threat. Making movies with live animals is possibly only marginally favourable than zipping your best mate into a bad costume! There’s plenty of opportunity to undermine even the highest quality film making, here however the dogs perform dutifully. The good thing was that the film was kept based on reality, not some giant killer breed of dog or mutated pooch, therefore great animal handling and thoughtful attack sequences kept the movie grounded. The gore and violence is there where it needs to be and the effects look pretty decent, but bear in mind that this is a suspense movie, not a slasher.
Overall, ‘The Pack’ delivers 90 minutes of solidly made entertainment. You would have to decide if an animal attack film is something which interests you in the first instance but here, mixing the creature concept with, what is essentially a home invasion movie, works well as a fresh idea – providing you can look past some of the plot inconsistencies. If you were to combine ‘The Pack’ with a solid werewolf feature to follow you would have yourself the near perfect ‘canine’ double bill!