Judge Paul Pritchard learned the hard way never to give a cannibal a hand.
They're Expecting You For Dinner.
While traveling through remote countryside, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne) picks up a hitchhiker, Max (Benjamin Biolay). Stopping off to get something to eat, the two travelers are confronted by a group of bikers, and are only saved when the owner of the café, La Spack (Yolande Moreau) pulls a shotgun on the thugs. However, Charlotte's troubles are only beginning. When Max vanishes, Charlotte begins to investigate his disappearance, but is soon kidnapped by La Spack and imprisoned in her torture chamber. As the night draws on, Charlotte realizes this is just the beginning, and she is being prepared as the main course for a family of flesh-eating ghouls that La Spack has raised as her own.
There is but one problem with writer-director Franck Richard's The Pack; unfortunately it undermines the entire production. The problem is the film totally lacks cohesion. It makes a very noticeable jump at the halfway point as the film switches genres. This is not to be mistaken for the movie mixing or even making a gradual progression from one genre to another. Rather, in what appears to be an attempt to jolt the audience (a la From Dusk Till Dawn), Richard moves his film from torture porn to creature feature/zombie movie in the blink of an eye. It's too abrupt a switch, weakening the overall impact.
What's frustrating is that each section of the film works well enough, but the shift in genres means neither gets enough time to really grip the viewer. A prime example comes when, surrounded by the eponymous pack, a group of disparate survivors prepares to make a desperate last stand, holing up in an old shed. They board the place up and arm themselves to the teeth thanks to a conveniently placed weapons cache underneath the building. It looks like we're all set for a rip-roaring, gore-soaked finale. However, this simply doesn't come to pass. Sure, there's plenty of gore and a few particularly nice effects shots to be had, but it's all over far too quickly, as the film races at full tilt towards the end credits. Personally, I savor the tension of a good old-fashioned siege. It also seems so pointless introducing the Fulci-inspired pack, only to give them so little to do.
As is often the case with the horror genre, the majority of characters can be classified as victims, with little to distinguish one from the other. That said: The Pack features two strong female roles.
We are quickly clued into the fact that leading lady Charlotte is one tough chick. Confronted by a coffee mug full of loogie—courtesy of a biker with designs of her derrière—Charlotte shows her balls by staring the thug down while downing the vile brew without breaking a sweat. It's a funny thing how one's stomach reacts to different visual stimulation. The Pack features some pretty grisly imagery, yet it was the cup-a-loogie that had me putting down my snacks and reaching for the barf bag.
Stealing the film from under the nose of Dequenne, however, is Yolande Moreau as La Spack. Twisted isn't even the word. With all due respect to Moreau, La Spack is seriously messed up. Seemingly holding no fear—she calmly tells one biker, "I'll repaint my lino with your ball juice"—La Spack watches over the cannibalistic creatures with a mother's love, and has no qualms about draining a man of his vital fluids should the need arise. Even when her life is on the line and a gun-toting madmen is taking potshots at her, La Spack has an unnerving confidence about her person.
Visually, The Pack is a triumph, with a suitably gritty look that is captured perfectly by a standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Blacks are rock solid, and complement a sharp, colorful picture. The Dolby 5.1 French mix offers clear dialogue and some excellent effects work, and the English 2.0 dub doesn't suffer any overt ill-effects from the step down.
Bloody Disgusting has put together a solid set of extras for The Pack. "The Making Of The Pack" is a routine collection of behind the scenes footage interspersed with the cast and crew discussing what drew them to the project. "Performing The Stunts" goes behind the scenes to show how the cast performed many of their own stunts, revealing how several shots were achieved. "Creating The Set" focuses on how La Spack's torture room was created, while "Setting Up The Joke" sees the cast and crew rehearse the joke Charlotte tells Max early on in the film. My only gripe is that the DVD cover doesn't sport Graham Humphrey's amazing artwork, which was used for the Region 2 release of the film.
For all its faults, The Pack offers a fun time for horror fans looking for some no-brainer entertainment. The lack of originality or a consistent tone means it shouldn't be at the top of your rental list, but it will certainly pass the time on a quiet Friday night.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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