The Pack is an ensemble horror film that features a family of four trying to survive a pack of wild dogs intent upon killing and eating them. This offering from the land down under may be slow paced but it piles on the suspense and provides just enough gore to be effective.
The film was helmed by Nick Robertson (his first effort as director) and written by Evan Randall Green and stars a couple of “Home and Away” alumni – Jack Campbell and Anna Lise Phillips. Campbell and Phillips play the parents, Adam and Carla. Newcomers Hamish Phillips and Katie Moore play brother and sister Henry and Sophie.
The Wilson family are going through tough times. Sophie wants to leave the country and is rebelling against both parents. Adam and Carla are one step away from losing their sheep farm after scores of the animals have been viciously slaughtered.
A loan officer from the bank stops by to threaten foreclosure and offers the couple an insulting sum of money to buy the property. If the Wilson’s refuse they will have 48 hours to move out and will lose everything. Adam turns the bank official down and throws him off the property.
Meanwhile the wild dogs, having run out of sheep are on the prowl for something new to eat.
The Pack does rely a bit on stereotypes to sell the film. The rebellious teen, the stubborn farmer, the supportive wife and the financially struggling farm. While the characters are a bit two dimensional it does not hurt the film as they all become something different when the animals attack.
In terms of violence, the attacks by the dogs are impressive. While there is not a lot of blood splashed about the ferocity of the animals is quite frightening. The feral creatures head straight for the throat with speed and focus. One feels that in real life the victim would be dead in a moment.
The house used for filming is beautiful as is the surrounding scenery. Nickerson has shot a film that, when it is not cranking the tension up, looks gorgeous and terrible. The nighttime scenes thrust the viewer back into childhood and that fear of what we cannot see clearly.
Perhaps the only note of complaint would be the animals themselves. Each one looks identical to the other and they also resemble those black collies used in sheep herding. Of course the veterinarian of the film Carla, does mention interbreeding so that may account for it plot wise. In all likelihood though it is most likely because of budgetary constraints.
The Pack moves at a leisurely pace. At an hour and a half, 90 minutes, it should feel too long but it does not. The action is not all frantic retaliation for the attacks but a combination of stealth and ingenuity as the family fight back.
As most of the attacks take place after dark the lighting has been set up to keep from losing anything in the gloomy surroundings. This is especially impressive considering that the dogs are black.
This is straight forward horror. There is no sting in the tail ending with an O.Henry twist. The audience get what they came for with this one, a scary suspenseful film that despite the slower pace moves along very well.
It would be interesting to see this film set in America. As Australia has stricter gun laws the farmer has one rifle with only a few rounds of ammunition to fight off the pack of feral dogs. In the USA the same chap would probably have an arsenal in his house and the film would have been very different.
The Pack is a solid 4 stars for working brilliantly despite its reportedly low budget. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment and is well worth a look…or two.