Somewhere in the Australian outback, a family are about to be evicted from their property. The bank offers a deal but the farmer and his wife won’t go, despite the fact that something unknown and nasty is lurking in the woods and slaughtering their sheep on a regular basis. Their teenage daughter is itching to get back to the city, but their young son loves it here. He has even constructed something like a human-sized rat run, a tunnel made from wooden slats and boxes, where he hides his treasures. Among the treasures are two rifle bullets. Who’s betting that they might come in handy as the story continues?
Luckily for the family – but unluckily for the banker – after the pompous moneyman leaves their house, he stops to relieve himself in the woods. That’s not a smart idea. The Pack – a gang of murderous wild dogs – promptly takes him down and rips out his throat. And then they turn their attentions on the family inside the house. The family erect barricades but when the dogs find their way into the building, the family’s chances for survival look less than hopeful.
The Pack is a strange film. It takes the familiar ‘nature gone bad’ trope that seems to be such a favourite of Aussie cinema (Long Weekend, Razorback, The Last Wave) and throws in elements of Stephen King’s Cujo and Hitchcock’s The Birds to create a family-in-peril thriller that is very good to look at but, ultimately, isn’t very thrilling. It’s the screenplay that lets everything down – from the clumsy foreshadowing of the bullets-in-the-rat-run at the start of the film, to the illogical behaviour of the Pack themselves: they kill the banker and a police officer en masse but, whenever they go after the family, they helpfully decide to attack one at a time, thereby giving our heroes the optimum chance to escape (or, on at least one occasion, they don’t even attack at all.) They also seem to have lost their sense of smell, which is fortunate because it means the farmer’s wife can hide behind a door with one of the dogs standing two feet in front of her and the dog still doesn’t catch her scent. It’s moments like those that make The Pack such a frustrating experience.
Still, all the performances are good, the direction is tight and the film is very well paced. The dog attacks are also extremely well done, even if the inevitable ‘no animals were harmed during the making of this motion picture’ proviso neuters the violence a fair amount.
Don’t go into The Pack expecting too much, and you might be nicely surprised. And if you’re a sheep, you should probably watch this with your eyes closed. But if you’re really in the mood for some humans-versus-mad dogs action, Robert Clouse’s similarly themed 1977 film – which also shares the same title – is much better.
THE PACK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: NICK ROBERTSON / SCREENPLAY: EVAN RANDALL GREEN / STARRING: ANNA LISE PHILLIPS, KATIE MOORE, KIERAN THOMAS MCNAMARA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW