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Australia 2015
Directed by
Nick Robertson
88 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
2.5 stars

The Pack

Synopsis: Adam Wilson (Jack Campbell) and his family live on an isolated sheep farm where his wife, Carla (Anna-Lise Phillips), runs a struggling veterinarian practice. Their teenage daughter, Sophie (Katie Moore) hates the isolation and the dodgy internet coverage but their son, Henry (Hamish Phillips) thrives. After discovering that most of their livestock have been mauled to death by a feral pack of wild dogs and then receiving notice that the bank is about to foreclose, Adam and Carla must face the possibility that they will have to sell the farm. But first, when the pack of wild dogs turns on them, they must dig deep into their own resources as a family in order to survive.

First time feature director, Nick Robertson, makes a good fist of this low budget horror-thriller that pits the Wilson family against some decidedly vicious and visually well-realised killer dogs.  The set-up of the tensions between family members and the stresses they each carry is efficient and believable and it’s easy to see how the dogs work both literally and metaphorically as representatives of an outside world coalescing into a rabid force that wants to tear the Wilsons and their dreams apart.

The strongest element of the story is the need for this fractured family to come together against the attackers. But this is also the story’s Achilles’ heel, in that we need to keep the family intact whilst we also need to see these dogs in action in order to fear the primal violence they are capable of inflicting on humans. To achieve this, we are introduced to a number of expendable characters who seem to exist more for the purpose of being eaten alive than for any useful narrative contribution. Consequently, whilst we care for the members of the Wilson family – we don’t want them to be eaten – we care less for the victims so their bloody, gory deaths offer no real emotional connection. They are just illustrations of what could happen to our heroes.

Likewise, the set-ups for the scariest and most tense moments in the film are all a bit too obvious so that rather than being shocked or surprised and terrified by the twists and turns of the story, we tend to see them coming well before they happen. Nevertheless, there are some genuinely scary moments when the dogs break into the house and it seems that, suddenly, nowhere on this property is safe. It’s a shame, though, that the feral dogs remain mostly as a pack and that we’re not offered any characterisation in the way that would have us dreading the final showdown between, for instance, farmer and pack leader. These things do happen in the film but without any real emotional investment in the canine antagonists.

Having said that, we do genuinely engage with the family as both individuals and as a unit and it’s this element of the story that elevates it above being just another schlock-horror, blood-and-gore-fest.  Perhaps the most recent gold standard for this kind of man-versus-wild-animal horror flick is Joe Carnahan’s excellent 2012 thriller, The Grey.  What that film had was a much stronger sense of the psychology of both the human protagonists and the animal antagonists and a cast of characters who we’d come to know and, in most cases, care about before they succumbed to the wolves. But mostly what The Grey achieved was a palpable sense of understanding and even mutual respect between man and wolf which we don’t get in The Pack - and the film is the poorer for it.




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