The Pack (La Meute) (2010): Out not on DVD
(18) Running time: 80 minutes
Director: Franck Richard
Writer: Franck Richard
Starring: Yolande Moreau, Emillie Dequenne, Benjamin Biola
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
I was really looking forward to his new French shocker; the trailer showed an awful lot of promise and looked incredibly creepy and brutally nasty. The fact it was French also made it look pretty damned good because, let’s face it, the French horror has been pretty darned good these last few years. There have been some stinkers, Humains was awful and I just did not buy into La Horde. The Pack looked to be interesting and hopefully a gruelling experience and so with these high hopes I sat down to watch the film and found myself bitterly disappointed come the end. It starts well, a creepy misty road leads way to Charlotte (Dequenne) driving across country. Stopping for gas she gets a mouthful from a group of bikers, and now we realise the Charlotte does not take shit from anyone. With the word ‘hate’ tattooed on here hand, she laughs off their jibes and carries on here way. They follow and she does not seem too bothered, merely saying ‘shit’ until she see’s a hitchhiker and decides to help him out. As he gets into the car she tells him “don’t even think about getting your fucking dick out” and in the films only intentional comedy moment he responds “don’t worry, it’s too cold!”
Yes, meet Max (Biolay), an obvious character if ever there was one! The two share the driving until they reach a quiet truckers restaurant, you know the type, the one’s that are used in nearly every darned horror based out in the sticks. Run down, barely a customer in sight and run by some dirty old hag you just know is bad news. The film takes a jump into danger territory as, somehow, the bikers turn up again and threaten the girl and the bloke until Mother old hag comes out with a shotgun threatening, as they always do! After a teeny bit of violence which looked much more impressive in the trailer, the biker’s bugger off and not too long after Max goes missing. The local ex-sheriff turns up for a coffee, but the place has now been closed and Charlotte kicked out. Barely knowing Max, Charlotte is desperate to find him, giving her number to the dodgy ex-sheriff (who wears a t-shirt which states “fuck on first dates”) and decides to come back at night to break in and look for him, a bad move. The tough and moody Charlotte is knocked out and taken captive by the old hag and she is kept in a cage with other captives. The film is about to get good, you think, the French proved they can better films like Hostel with Frontiers and Martyrs so we could well be in for a treat now? Wrong.
Where The Pack falls short is that this has all been done before, but better. The characters are interesting enough, but for some reason the level of menace and threat is never really there, in fact, in places it is quite comical. I mean, the old hag wears a bloody chain like vest which is bullet proof for starters, the ex-sheriff is impossible to take seriously, even hen the film hints at him possibly being someone he maybe isn’t. The girl playing Charlotte is convincing enough, but the violence never really gets to a point where you think “shit, that’s nasty!” The film is short enough, but the pacing feels almost sleep inducing at times and a bleak ending doesn’t quite hit the spot. Where the film shines though is in its ideas. This is a bit of a fresh take on the torture-porn genre as there is very little torture, but there are a few moments which are very clever, and the film offers up a new beast to the genre, the undead! After a rather uncomfortable blood transfusion scene, we soon learn that old hag LaSpack wants to offer her captives to her bizarre family of undead creatures which come up from the ground when blood is sprinkled on the floor. Their first arrival is incredibly creepy, it almost feels like slow motion, the use of music is superb and you find yourself questioning what the Hell is going on. It is unsettling and this, for me, was the highlight of the film.
It falls flat again after this and seriously loses its edge and the final twenty odd minutes are almost painful. Some comical scenes do life the film a bit, and I am not even sure if they were intentional, but nothing really stands out. This is a shame because The Pack had the ideas, the setting and the best genre for its motives, but sadly there just is not enough class on offer here to push the film into the realms of brilliance it so desperately promised and wanted. This could, and should have been a genre classic, but instead we just get a tired formula which felt like it gave up right from the start. This will not put me off the director though, as he does show a lot of promise, but unfortunately The Pack is not what it was made out to be.