The Pack DVD Review
Written and Directed by Frank Richard
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 84 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 4th July 2011
Emilie Dequenne as Charlotte
Yolande Moreau as La Spack
Benjamin Biolay as Max
Philipe Nohan as Chinaski
There has been a real resurgence of progressive horror films from France over the last few years (Martyrs, Frontiers, Them etc) so it’s always exciting when a new French horror comes along with a lot of promise. And while I wouldn’t say The Pack is particularly progressive, it’s really gripping and certainly very, very cool.
While out driving aimlessly as far as her CD collection will take her, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne) picks up a hitchhiker called Max (Benjamin Biolay) out in the countryside. They spend time getting to know each other and stop off in a small, rough looking bar to get some refreshments. When Max goes to the bathroom and doesn’t reappear, Charlotte begins to worry and the habits of the people working at the bar begin to make her suspicious. She decides to go back late at night to investigate a possible hidden door in the bathroom that could explain Max’s disappearance, but she soon learns she’s been tricked and is caught up in something she could never have imagined.
This film’s strengths lie in many areas. The acting is really superb; with a relatively small cast the story relies heavily on three people, but luckily no one lets it down. The stand out performance comes from Yolande Moreau, who always comes across as a bubbly, friendly lady found in some of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s finest work, but here in The Pack you couldn’t get more opposite. She plays Max’s mother, a demented, evil woman who holds a big secret. It’s not just her actions that make her a repulsive character; it’s her demeanour, her searching stare and the way she holds herself.
The cinematography is another strength, from the very first scene the way the film looks is really special. It creates a perfect mood instantly as Charlotte drives her car down a desolate road in the countryside, the sky seems to bleed into the surrounding areas and everything is bleak yet, in a way, rather beautiful to look at.
As well as all this there is a fantastic use of dark humour, which goes well with the setting. The style of humour really surprised me as it’s very sharp and it’s consistent from the start right to the end, even through some of the nastiest parts. One of my favourite scenes was when La Spack says of Charlotte, after putting her some gruelling, yucky torture, “I like this girl, she’s nice.” Maybe out of context it’s not that funny but believe me there are some great one liners throughout.
So The Pack begins as a slasher/torture film, but it takes a twist and, without wanting to spoil too much, there are some monsters lurking in the back of this film. Most of the time, when a horror suddenly becomes a “monster movie”, it can stop being scary and become a bit laughable. A couple great examples of this are Jeepers Creepers and Insidious, once you see the monster and it becomes utterly unbelievable, it’s hard to feel truly terrified by it. Not all horror films run this risk though and The Pack is one of them. When we see these creatures, it makes it all the more horrifying as the monsters they have created are truly something to behold. Deformed from living underground, with no eyes (much like those creatures from The Descent) these things look plain nasty. But not just from the way they look, it’s also the way they move. Very much like zombies, they are slow and menacing which creates a power that surrounds them suggesting you will not survive them. The gore fans out there will be happy with Robert’s offering here as it’s very gruesome and graphic.
My only real problem is the clichéd, predictable ending that left me slightly disappointed, only because the film could have given us much more. There are a lot of times in the film where you feel you know where it’s headed and if it had just a little bit more originality in the way the story progresses, it would stand out more.
It was not what I was expecting, but it was very entertaining and this being Robert’s directorial and writing debut it’s a really good sign of things to come. I will certainly be looking out for more of his work in the future.
Video and Audio:
The film is shown in 16:9 aspect ratio and although this is quite a dark film in its setting, it’s still clear, as is the audio.
Not so much an extra but a nice added bonus is the excellent DVD cover. For all you horror poster fans, this cover was created by Graham Humprheys who is the creator of such UK poster classics for Evil Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The only extra on the DVD is a short documentary on how he created it which is pretty cool, but not enough for this feature.