Monster Movie Monday: The Pack (2015)
Matthew Turner | On 05, Apr 2021
Director: Nick Robertson
Cast: Anna Lise Phillips, Jack Campbell, Katie Moore, Hamish Phillips, Charles Mayer
Where to watch The Pack in the UK: Amazon Prime
In the mood for a creature feature? Amazon Prime has a veritable menagerie of monster movies, so we’re working our way through them, one killer beastie at a time. Welcome to Monster Movie Mondays.
Directed by Nick Robertson, The Pack is set in Australia and centres on sheep farming family Adam and Carla Wilson (Jack Campbell and Anna Lise Phillips), who are facing various problems even before a pack of wild dogs arrives to terrorise them. Their imminent concern is that their smarmy bank manager (Charles Mayer) is threatening to foreclose on their farm and evict them within 24 hours, while teenage daughter Sophie (Katie Moore) is itching to move to the city.
Unbeknown to the Wilsons, they get an early reprieve on their mortgage difficulties when a pack of wild dogs tear their bank manager to pieces after he unwisely stops to urinate on his drive home. However, their problems quickly multiply, as the dogs have developed a taste for human flesh and they soon surround the farm, hoping to snack on a few Wilsons.
The wild dogs in The Pack may not have much in the way of individual personalities, but they are, at least, genuinely terrifying. To that end, Robertson amplifies their scariness by a) cranking up the growling volume, b) including lots of snarling, toothy close-ups, and c) shooting them in a way that emphasises their speed.
Effects-wise, if there’s a fake dog shot in the film then you don’t notice it – indeed, all the creature action seems to have been performed by actual dogs, so enormous credit is due to the film’s team of dog wranglers. As for the impressive gore effects, they’re achieved by judicious cutting and editing, all of which is fast-paced enough that you can’t see the joins.
Robertson also proves a dab hand at orchestrating a creepy moment or two, mainly by having black shadowy dog-like figures flit past in the background, making you wonder if you just saw something or if you imagined it. He also knows his way around a jump scare and, boy, does he want you to know it, throwing in everything from a suddenly screeching cat to Carla yelling “Boo!” at her young son (Hamish Phillips) to deliberately scare him when they’re going down to the basement.
The performances are fine throughout, but the actors are rather let down by the script, which proceeds to completely ignore all the promising plot stuff it set up in the first ten minutes, in favour of endless scenes of the characters crawling around in the dark. Worse, it never really feels like any of the family are in any real danger, even when they’re attacked – Adam appears to get his leg badly savaged early on, but he doesn’t even have so much as a limp afterwards.
The film also has a curious attitude to the usual clichés. It’s quite happy to do the expected policeman-arrives-to-help, gets-eaten routine (and does it well), but it fails to do the time-honoured mother-puts-herself-in-danger-to-distract-dogs-from-child bit, when something like that would have really livened things up a bit in the second half.
In fairness, The Pack is never less than watchable and it will definitely make you nervous next time you hear a dog snarling, but it’s never quite as scary as it should have been and it’s ultimately let down by a lazy and overly simplistic script. Good dog wrangling though. Biscuits all round.