The Pack comes to DVD

Monday, 04 July 2011 08:31

“The Pack” is a horror movie that tries to defy classification and expectation within the genre despite containing a fistful of clichés. Lone driver Charlotte picks up a hitchhiker who subsequently disappears at a truck-stop cafe after a disturbing altercation with some unpleasant bikers. Later that night she breaks into the cafe to investigate, and is promptly caught and knocked out by the quirky female owner and her son.

When consciousness returns, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne - "Brotherhood of the Wolf") finds herself caged inside a grotty farm outbuilding and treated like cattle being fattened for the slaughter. Our heroine is not keen on hanging around to see what terrible fate awaits her, and so she tries to hatch an escape plan with a fellow prisoner. 

The Pack - available now on DVDMeanwhile, something unspeakable is stirring beneath the fields, preparing to feast. Writer-director Franck Richard's debut wrong-foots its audience a number of times in the first half an hour or so, a feat that helps to maintain the audience's interest despite the film's rather relaxed pace.

At first it appears to be about a psychotic hitchhiker, then a movie about misogynistic bikers, or possibly another entry in the torture-porn genre. It makes for an entertaining guessing game until its hand is fully revealed, and even then you are never quite sure where it is going next.

There are very few characters in the film, but those that do feature are generally there for a reason, which is a reason beyond acting as mere cannon fodder. Chief amongst the players is the strangely-monickered 'La Spack' (Yolande Moreau - "Amelie", "Micmacs"), owner of the cafe which also bears her name. She is a large, shambling, middle-aged lady who cheerfully and casually subdues her victims despite her apparently vulnerable demeanour. Her son (Benjamin Biolay) is equally difficult to read, obedient but hinting that he has feelings for Charlotte and might let her out.

Popping in and out of the cafe like some kind of French Columbo is Chinaski (Philippe Nahon - "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-sec"), apparently an ex-sheriff who smells a rat but whose policing powers have all but deserted him in his advanced years.

Without wishing to reveal too much more (although the DVD sleeve has already done that job for me!), the creatures, that form the pack of the title are at once innovative, economical and creepy rather than scary. They reminded me of the weevils in Torchwood but with most of their feral aggression removed, replaced with slow, snake-like movement and a certain etherealness. They make up for the slight disappointment when you first see them by getting progressively more eerie.

Whilst most of my observations have thus far hopefully sounded quite positive, the movie does have some major flaws. It is only 75 minutes long (if you exclude six minutes of closing credits), the ending feels rushed and the film really could do with some major jump-shocks or frights to unsettle the viewer more. Like La Spack, the whole enterprise feels way too laid back to scare, though it does emit a quiet sense of confidence so perhaps the intention was to get under the audience's skin by way of subtlety and oddness rather than by falling back on a more traditional break-neck murder-fest.

The only special features on this disc are a trailer and a two-minute featurette on the evolution of the striking artwork on the DVD sleeve. The latter, narrated by artist Graham Humphreys, is enlightening but combined with the short length of the movie itself hardly justifies the relatively steep asking price.

“The Pack” (2010) is out now, courtesy of Icon Home Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 81 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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