If you’re a dog lover, be sure to steer clear of The Pack. Why? Because you’ll either end up fearing your four-legged friends, or cringe during defensive scenes that depict appropriate, but brutal, man-on-canine violence. This isn’t your typical “when animals attack” adventure, thanks to the way director Nick Robertson is able to transform a few pups into dark, deranged reapers from Hell. Much like Adam MacDonald’s Backcountry, which features a hammer-clawed behemoth of a bear, scribe Evan Randall Green finds horror in the most primal situations, and tension never ceases. Robertson continually reminds us that Satan’s lapdogs are on the prowl, either watching from afar, or tearing into flesh with their bone-white teeth.
Did I just become a cat person?
This Australian thriller takes place on a sprawling plot of farmland, as the Wilson family are forced to defend their kingdom from a vicious pack of stray dogs. Mother Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) and father Adam (Jack Campbell) must protect their kin, Sophie (Katie Moore) and Henry (Hamish Phillips), as the furry attackers ignite animalistic instincts inside the protective parents. Carla, a veterinarian by trade, has her workshop disconnected from the main home, which of course is where the only extra bullets can be found. Adam’s only choice is to make a break for it, chancing a run-in with the vicious predators still lurking outside. The Wilsons can’t hide, they can’t run – they can only hope to escape the night alive.
The Pack would be nothing without Robertson’s representation of his murderous pooches; these jet-black blurs who fly around with a hunter’s aggression. The dog/wolf hybrids circle their prey like sharks around a bleeding surfer, as they descend upon unlucky victims at breakneck speeds. Black tufts of fur and gnashing jowls give way to bloody, gruesome kill sequences, but their presence alone strikes fear. They stalk, lurking menacingly in the distance, or illuminate the forest’s outter-most edges with hypnotic, beady eyes. Remember the velociraptor “Don’t go into the tall grass!” scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park? Think that, but with feral, jugular-ripping dags (as Brad Pitt from Snatch, would say).
This is a home invasion flick of sorts, but also a natural tale of survival. Granted, things get a bit suspect when the dogs break into the Wilson estate (busting doors/breaking windows), but tension never settles, nonetheless. Once they’re in the house, our blood-pressure heightens, as the furry bastards glide from room to room with stealthy, ninja-like agility. Sophie and Henry cower, as they rightfully should, because they’re not meant to be the heroes here. Carla and Adam revert to primitive selflessness when protecting their young, much like animals might do if surrounded by poachers. In this respect, The Pack is really about nature fighting back against human oppression, by unleashing its fury through otherwise trusted beasts.
Without strong performances from Phillips and Campbell, the barbaric power-struggle would be all for naught. Two parents, both being animal lovers, are forced to fight against unforgiving beasts – no machine guns, no fortified base. These adults needn’t be action heroes, but somewhat scared, somewhat adrenaline-fueled protectors who have no choice but to retaliate. Both familial actors have no problem acknowledging the beastly terror at hand, but their fighting-back is kept in check by a burning will to live. Carla’s actions weigh heavily on her conscience, and Adam’s wounds detract from his normal skillset, yet survival pushes them forward into butt-clenching, wild fits of primal rage.
Nick Robertson’s The Pack is an Aussie siege movie that savagely transforms man’s best friend into our worst enemy, or nightmare – either description applies. Horror builds with each dead body, as the dogs quickly remind us that animals are still free spirits deep down inside. If these dogs were compared to a gang in The Warriors, they’d be the freakin’ Rogues, ready to permanently mess up any poor souls who cross their path. Mother Nature can be a f#&king cruel mistress, but this is some seriously twisted revenge on her part. Go ahead, just try to look at Fido the same way after the Wilsons’ attempt what could be their last stand…
The Pack is a savage survival story that goes right for a jugular, whether you're a dog lover or not.