Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Pack


   I've never found dogs or wolves particularly scary. Like, even in most movies when someone's getting attacked by a dog, my inner animal-lover just sees a hard luck dog who needs to be loved. Maybe then he'll stop mauling people to death. I'll take him! The Pack is the first movie to actually unsettle me when it comes to dogs. These dogs weren't potential house pets, they were cinematic monsters, leaving The Pack to evolve from a simple survival thriller, into a ferocious creature feature. We need more back-to-basic horror flicks like this. Bottom line? The Pack is simply inspired.

   Set in rural Australia, a family finds their farm in the warpath of a pack of wild and bloodthirsty dogs. It's such a simple premise, but it's also an amazingly effective one. Mutilated livestock and worried house pets are foreboding enough, but once people start to die the movie escalates to a whole other level. I was surprised at how shocking and violent the movie was, and while its formula is interchangeable with any basic creature feature, (i.e. Tremors) the fact that these are simply wolves, and this is a plausible story to some degree, makes it all the more terrifying.

   It's not a perfect movie though. I'm getting really sick of movies setting up all kinds of issues for the characters, and then not providing closure to any of those plot threads in the end. The movie shows us early on that the family is having issues hanging onto their family farm. The bank is ready to foreclose, but makes them one last offer of two hundred thousand dollars. Tensions run high, but the bank rep ultimately decides to give them some time to think it over. Then, as soon as the dogs show up, this sub-plot is entirely abandoned. Not even a throwaway line at the end. Very annoying, but not enough to break the film.

   All the actors turn in great performances, but the mom- played by Anne Lise Phillips, was brilliant. Moms in horror/survival movies are usually pretty awesome, and this lady was certainly no exception. The plot wisely spreads it's details out over the whole length of the movie, and while things teeter on implausibility more than once the writing is solid enough to compensate. Contingencies and typical plot-hurdles are overcome confidently, pushing to further isolate this family in every way possible. Because, lets face it, survival thrillers where the characters have an easy way out, and never take it or don't realize it... are dumb.

   The Pack solves those potential problems before they even arise. I take my hat off to director Nick Robertson. He created a gutsy and stylish thriller here that aims to satisfy conventional genre fans and the more discerning viewers all at once. So while it's not perfect, and has some minor flaws, The Pack is a tension-filled thrill ride that will make you clutch the arm rests. I'll be keeping an eye on Nick Robertson's career, and I hope he continues to deliver some more excellent horror flicks like this one.

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