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New Release Review - THE PACK (DVD)

A family comes under attack from a pack of feral dogs.



Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Nick Robertson

Starring: Anna Lise Phillips, Jack Campbell, Katie Moore, Hamish Phillips



The Pack is competently filmed, adequately acted, and makes some attempt to create a creepy atmosphere. It’s all very workmanlike but Nick Robertson just can't seem to maintain the suspense throughout the entire film.


Australia is an extraordinary and ancient continent. Home to ‘the dreamtime’ of the aborigines, it has unique, striking landscapes and fascinating indigenous wildlife – most of which would like to see you dead.
Dangerously venomous snakes, jellyfish, spiders and ticks, sharks, crocodiles, dingoes and now, would you believe it, packs of feral dogs roaming the woods with a dogged (sorry) determination to consume some fresh, well-fed, human meat, on the hoof. It’s amazing that any Australians ever make it to adulthood. I’ll have to hand it to them; they’re a rugged and tenacious lot.
We’ve probably all had an unpleasant experience with an unfriendly dog, so being confronted by a pack of feral canines is clearly a horrifying prospect for most of us. In The Pack, after an ominous introduction catagorically stating that “around the world, packs of wild dogs roam freely, killing at will,” first-time feature director Nick Robertson and screenwriter Evan Randall Green introduce us to the Wilson family, struggling to make a living on a remote Australian sheep farm.
The father is a stoic type called Adam (Jack Campbell), a sheep farmer of few words and fewer facial expressions. His wife Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) has set up a veterinary clinic in an attempt to fend off the bank, to which the family is in arrears. Their daughter (Katie Moore) is a thinly-sketched teen brat who storms downstairs, protesting her state of ‘solitary confinement’ because she can’t get a decent phone signal. Meanwhile her younger brother (Hamish Phillips) hoards bullets in a maze-like tunnel comprising of bits of clapboard nailed together because… what else is there to do in remote parts of Oz?
Threatened with foreclosure, the Wilsons find their flock being attacked and semi-eaten, before the hungry dog-pack inhabiting their land conveniently chows down on the debt collector and decides that humans might be tastier than mutton – even the hard, tough-skinned bankers.
When night falls, the wild dogs surround the Wilson home, trying to force their way in so that they can feast on a more tender four courses comprising of dad, mum, daughter and son. Carla theorizes that their unorthodox man-eating behaviour may be the result of feral interbreeding, but really, any explanations at this point are merely random and superfluous.
There is a rather long setup before the family is besieged, and even then, so little actually happens in The Pack that none of the characters get the chance to undergo any development or emerge as being vaguely interesting. We are simply trapped with them, enclosed on their property, waiting for something to happen, other than the repeated cycle of — ‘ominous silence, broken by a snarling dog, people moving veeery slooowly until dog attacks’.
For a bit of a change Robertson contrives to split them up, giving editor Gabriella Muir the challenge of maintaining tension amid the crosscutting. Generally this means quickly cutting between extreme close-ups of dogs gnashing their teeth, people writhing around frantically and long-shots of dogs tearing into a body. On a few occasions, Robertson employs an overhead shot looking down at the mauling, but rarely can we see dog and human together in the same frame.
All in all, The Pack is competently filmed, adequately acted, and makes some attempt to create a creepy atmosphere. It’s all very workmanlike but Nick Robertson just can't seem to maintain the suspense throughout the entire film. Plus points go to the movie for largely eschewing puppets or CGI in favour of using trained, vicious-looking dogs, but all is let down by a weak sense of pacing, which contrives to sometimes make the dogs seem less menacing and more incompetent at working together than the humans.
Tom Schutzinger’s score is standard horror beat, while Benjamin Shirley’s crisp digital photography does justice to the rural idyll, occasionally soaring over the treetops to survey the gorgeous, sun-tinged South Australian landscape from above. (Robertson comes from a background of making car commercials, so there is inevitably a proliferation of drone photography throughout).
At the end of The Pack, as dawn breaks after a gruelling and snarly night, out of the undergrowth trots the family dog, whose sudden disappearance had proved to be a harbinger of the feral dogs’ arrival. As he bounds forward, cheerfully wagging his tail, one can’t help but idly wonder what he’s been up to all this time, as, unlike us, he has missed all the recurrently gruesome goings-on and appears to have had a much better time.
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