The Pack is an Australian man-vs-nature/seige film from director, Nick Robertson. According to IMDB, this is Robertson’s first feature film. As such, it is a solid, tension packed (PACKed!) little film with decent turns from a spare cast. I say, “as such”, because it is not without its problems. Am I making assumptions about the missteps of first-time directors? Yes I am. But I tend to cut them some slack that I wouldn’t afford a more experienced director. So, my assumptions are in their favor. Let’s get into it, shall we?
The Pack focuses on an Australian family living in a farmhouse in an isolated, rural area. They are sheep farmers but the wife is also a livestock vet. They’ve fallen way behind on their mortgage and utility payments. The wife doesn’t have enough clients. And a recent spate of animal attacks on their sheep herd isn’t helping matters. In fact, it’s making things worse! (Quick econ lesson: fewer sheep means fewer dollaridoos.) They’re having a generally shitty day – they find more sheep that have been killed; The Man comes around to menace them about forclosure; their daughter is a shitty, narcissistic teenager; their pre-pubescent son keeps stealing their damn rifle ammo to ferret away in his fort; and, on top of all that, they are besieged by a pack of wild, murderous dogs!
The film has some great dog attack scenes. They are visceral and realistic. The actors squirm around under live dogs amid sprays of blood and unraveling intestines. Shots of the dogs charging their intended victims are panic-inducing. I was thinking, “RUN!” just as the filmmaker (presumably) intended. The dogs themselves are badass. Jet black and huge. Their silhouettes and light-reflecting eyes alone create a great sense of dread. I don’t know what kind of dogs they are, but they were perfectly cast.
We also get the paradoxical safety/danger of holing up in the farmhouse. This is very effectively handled in the film. We want the family to get into the farmhouse behind closed doors, but as soon as they are there, we immediately realize they are trapped there. If one of those monsters gets in there with them, it’s all over!
“It sounds great, Danger! But didn’t you mention ‘missteps’?”
First, take a look at that poster. What does it say? It specifically says that “You can’t hide from them.” right? Think about that. Why can’t you hide from a dog (or dogs)? Right! Because they can smell a fly fart in a strong wind and they can hear your heart beating from inside of a locked safe. (You’re in there. Not them. I’m not a sicko!) They are apex predators! (That may not apply to malti-poos, teacup yorkies, etc.) That means, they can fucking hear/smell a terrified woman hiding behind the dining room door as they walk through it! That’s not what happened in this movie. I was completely removed from the story when this went down. And it happened a couple of times! Secondly, the “red shirts” in this movie are pretty conveniently dropped into this situation. It makes those particular kills pretty contrived. And they are somewhat repetitive as well. (That may be the nature of dogs having pretty much one way to kill. I mean, it would be cool if they had little doggy chainsaws, but they don’t.) That’s not a huge deal and it is a complaint that I have of many other films as well. Another thing I’m counting as a misstep is the director’s (or writer’s) handling of the protagonists (the family). They were just too precious to them as a creation. (Think of an artist not wanting to sell her art when I say precious here.) I’m being intentionally vague so as not to spoil anything but you’ll understand if you see it. And I do recommend checking it out if this type of movie holds any appeal for you.
THE FINAL CUT: The Pack has some good scares, good gore, and scenes of high tension that make it worth checking out for fans of killer animal movies. The repetitiveness and contrivances hurt the overall experience a bit, but there is definitely some fun to be had.