Written and directed by Frank Richard, The Pack fits into the New French Extremity sub-genre—but only just barely. It’s not lacking in the extreme (violence, cruelty, gore) but it strays from the genre’s core tenets by incorporating a supernatural element absent in other notable French offerings of the past decade (like High Tension, Martyrs, and Frontier(s) to name a few).
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: The Pack follows Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne), a beautiful but rough around the edges kind of girl, who drives a beat-up station wagon in the countryside of northern France. Her journey takes a turn when she picks up a mysterious hitchhiker (Benjamine Biolay), with whom she strikes an unusual bond. Stopping at a roadside diner, her new companion strangely disappears, and Charlotte finds herself knocked unconscious and held captive.
Those tasked with promoting The Pack missed a golden opportunity to truly shock fans of French Horror. The bloodthirsty monsters would have been an amazing “twist” IF YOU HADN’T REVEALED THEIR EXISTENCE ON THE COVER OF THE DVD. Big mistake. What might have been: A taut thriller in the vein of Texas Chainsaw Massacre that ventures into unique territory with the inclusion of fearsome ghouls. Until their appearance in the film’s second half, there was no way to tell The Pack would venture into supernatural territory, meshing the genres of French Extremity and Creature Feature. This could have been really exciting.
But knowledge of the creatures taints our expectations from the beginning. Fans of French Extremity usually enjoy the fact that Humans are the most vicious creatures portrayed–as well as the fact that human deeds are more shocking than anything a fictional ogre could muster. So the inclusion of actual creatures feels farcical, fanciful—a dilution of the Horror we experience when viewing extreme realism. In this context, the monsters knock The Pack into the realm of B-Movies and other films marketed to a teenage demographic.
There are a few things I found really distracting about The Pack. First is the character of Jean-Jean. He’s presented as an anti-hero, a good soul forced into evil actions by his grieving (and insane) mother. And while he appears tortured, he never makes beyond the slightest efforts to better the situation for the protagonist or for himself. He just broods and smokes and looks depressed. Almost like a stereotypical French hipster. After an hour it’s just annoying.
The other thing that stuck in my craw was the creature themselves. I applaud the filmmakers for keeping all the FX practical (no CGI), but who had final sign-off on those faces? Pretty scary, but why the fucked up under-bite with what look like boar tusks? It doesn’t take a crypto-zoologist to see those would be a serious impediment to eating. They don’t even look scary. They look silly. Not keeping the creatures a secret during promotion was a big mistake, and giving them foolish, cartoonish features was another.
The Pack is by no means a bad movie, having the capacity to delight a varied audience of Horror and cinema fans. Younger aficionados and Monster lovers especially may feel like they’ve found a gem. But fans of New French Extremity expecting an ultra-realistic shocker will be disappointed.
And just for the record: If you see a woman wrapped in plastic running away from the dive-bar you’re about to enter, but you decide to go in anyway, well—you kind of deserve what you get.
Also gotta love the old cop wearing the “FUCK ON FIRST DATE” t-shirt. Props.
2.5 out of 5 Skulls.
|Directed by||Franck Richard|
|Produced by||Verane Frediani
|Written by||Franck Richard|
|Music by||Chris Spencer
Ari Benjamin MeyersChris Spencer
|Editing by||Olivier Gajan|
|Studio||La Fabrique 2
Motion Investment Group
|Distributed by||La Fabrique de Films|
|Running time||86 minutes|