SHOCK reviews Aussie killer canine flick THE PACK on UK DVD.
Taking place over a single day, the Australian indie sees a family on a remote farm menaced by a pack of vicious and hungry black canines. Brow-beaten farmer Adam Wilson (Jack Campbell) is struggling to keep his family business going, despite the protestations of his daughter Sophie (Katie Moore), whos sick of being marooned in the middle of nowhere and would be delighted to pack up and move to the city. Adams wife Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) has no takers for her veterinary services. Only the Wilsons youngest son Henry (Hamish Phillips) seems content to knock around with the family dog in their sparse but bucolic surroundings. Things are already looking bleak for the family with the bank about to foreclose. And then the feral hounds start to circle the farmhouse
Details aside, this is ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (or RIO BRAVO if you prefer) with dogs instead of punks: it even has a sparse, Carpenter-style electronic score. Its also, of course, THE BIRDS, with its premise of nature suddenly turning on us and fighting back. Theres a pleasing lack of explanation for this, bar an expository opening caption. This isnt some sort of, once-in-a-century-comet-drives-all-dogs-mad scenario. Theyve just gone bad.
THE PACK is a slow burn, with a good atmosphere. It does well not to ever seem silly. Theres something affectingly bleak about its tone and pallet, and it helps that the dogs are largely real, with CG and puppetry kept to a minimum.
Its efficient, but that can also mean basic. When Henry is playing, crawling through some corrugated iron tunnels in the films early stages, you just know well be back in those tunnels in more tense circumstances later on. Ditto a veterinary canine urine sample thats discussed early on: random enough that you know itll make a reappearance when animal scent becomes an issue.
Were so used to Australian films being set in the outback or dusty towns think WALKABOUT, THE PROPOSITION, THE ROAD WARRIOR, WOLF CREEK, WAKE IN FRIGHT, TRACKS, THE ROVER – that its a welcome change to see the country portrayed as green. Its a shame that the context of the farm failing doesnt really end up being anything to do with anything, other than giving some fractious character beats which are, of course, reconciled by the end. Maybe theres something to be said for the land becoming increasingly unwelcoming: the farm wont yield, and now the animals are rebelling against the humans too.
Theres also a kind of intriguing idea in a vet someone who cares about animals being forced into violence against them to survive. Again THE PACK doesnt really do a great deal with this but its clearly the backbone of Anna Lise Phillips performance. Rule number one of all disaster movies and most horror films is that you dont kill the dog. Its strangely transgressive to make them the villains and watch them get beaten to death and shot for 90 minutes.
In the end though, theres something about the threat that isnt enough. Theres no CUJO-like extra danger of rabies, nothing to make the canine antagonists more monstrous: these arent the wolves of THE GREY. Theyre just dogs. And quite domestic-looking dogs at that. And there dont seem to be terribly many of them.
The sole extra feature on Arrows UK DVD is a standard 8-minute making-of.