In the pre-credits scene we see a farmer attacked at night by a pack of wild dogs. This information is relayed to vet Carla (Anna-Lise Phillips) via a radio news broadcast. Of course, she ignores it - despite living on the neighbouring farmhouse with hunky husband Adam (Jack Campbell) and their two kids, Henry (Hamish Phillips) and Sophie (Katie Moore).
Perhaps it's because Carla and Adam have more pressing matters occupying their minds. They're heavily in debt - and the fact their sheep have recently been savaged by wild beasts isn't helping matters. Their bank manager (Charles Mayer) calls later that afternoon to make them an offer on their property that they can't afford to refuse. Although, Adam being the stubborn antihero that he is, he does actually refuse the offer.
When exploring his land that night, Adam realises that the bank manager was attacked and killed by wild dogs before he'd managed to leave their land. Racing back to the farmhouse with the ominous sounds of howling behind him, Adam bolts the doors and tells Carla to box the kids in upstairs. Barricading the downstairs windows and arming himself with a shotgun, Adam prepares for a long night protecting his family against a pack of hungry canines determined to get into their home and draw blood.
And that's it, in a nutshell. It's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-meets-DOGS, on an Australian farm. Sort of.
From the images of tin cans dangling on string from tree branches, to the sight of clouds rolling majestically through the skies, to aerial shots of the beautiful surrounding countryside, THE PACK is often visually ravishing. Certainly, director Nick Robertson tries his utmost to imbue Evan Randall Green's script with as much style as possible.
But style without substance soon becomes tiresome. And that's the problem with THE PACK: it's not terribly original, nor are its characters terribly interesting, nor is the unfolding siege situation terribly exciting. Even the attack scenes are edited in a manner which suggest more than they show.
The cast are good but unremarkably so. The same can be said for the action, the score, the dialogue ... it all vanished from memory long before the film had even reached its humdrum conclusion.
Also, what is the point of the dogs attacking? Do the family - who, of course, have no mobile 'phone signal where they live - enjoy an epiphany of any description during their ordeal? If they do, I missed that? Is the dogs' behaviour explained, other than via the cursory line of text which opens proceedings by telling us wild mutts have developed a taste for humans? Again, I don't recall as such.
We're left instead with a good-looking and competently edited film which is populated by hackneyed characters (the us-against-the-world parents, the bolshy boy-obsessed teen girl etc), unimaginative set-pieces and not a single moment of genuine heart-in-mouth tension.
Seriously, if you absolutely must see a modern film in which dogs turn against their human oppressors, seek out the brilliant Hungarian film WHITE GOD instead - and thank me later.
Arrow have released THE PACK uncut on UK DVD. It looks superb in a warm, clean and sharp transfer which preserves the original 2.35:1 ratio while enhancing it for 16x9 televisions.
English audio gets the 5.1 treatment and is very good.
Arrow's disc opens to a static main menu page. An equally static scene selection menu offers access to the movie by way of 12 chapters.
The sole extra is a well-produced 7-minute Making Of documentary. In it, we get some nice behind-the-scenes photographs along with EPK-style soundbites from the director and actors. The dogs were genuinely scary to work with, Robertson is a lovely guy etc. We don't learn anything revelatory and the running time is too meagre for this to carry much weight, but I appreciate its inclusion here nevertheless.
The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for PAY THE GHOST, BACKTRACK and HONEYMOON.
For an 84-minute film, THE PACK felt like a real test of viewer endurance. It's just boring. Though, if it's enough to win you over, I can at least attest to the fact that it looks great here.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Arrow Films|
|see main review|