The Film (3/5)
A small family, struggling to keep their farm afloat and their house from foreclosure, find themselves fighting to stay alive when they’re targeted as prey by a pack of feral murderous dogs. That’s pretty much it – no nonsense, just a straightforward plot. A plot that has some serious potential in its simplicity. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly capitalize on that potential. And the problems boil down to two things: script and direction.
That’s not to say that either is terrible. The script tells its little story and finds good beats for the action, but it sort of has an ambition problem, in that it seems like it’s trying to be a little more than what it is but doesn’t know how. There’s a lot of attention paid to the older daughter’s feelings of isolation and desperate need to move to the city with her friends, but the way it’s presented feels more like a setup without a payoff as opposed to character texture. There’s also the subplot with the foreclosure, in which the story has the bank man threatening to foreclose on the property for non-payment, but then in the same visit offers to buy the property from them (on behalf of the bank, of course). I’m no scholar on mortgage economics, especially in other countries, but I don’t really think it works like that. If you’re that close to default and the bank really wants your property, they’d just wait to foreclose on it, no? Maybe I’m wrong, but that really left me scratching my head. The good news though is that once the dogs show up the script becomes totally focused on the action at hand, and again, it navigates those waters fairly well.
The direction sort of has the opposite problem in that it’s not sure exactly what it wants to be. There’s a focused attempt at slow-burn atmosphere, but in execution it just sort of meanders along. There are a lot of cool shots with some obvious visual flare, but they all feel disembodied from the whole package. Yeah, that shot is cool, but are you using it to communicate something about the scene or the story? More often than not the answer is no, and as such it’s really hard to stay engaged with what’s happening and the 90 minute runtime feels much longer. And then when it all ends and the main conflict is resolved, everything that plagued our family before the dogs is left to dangle – again, set up with no payoff.
But, none of that is to say that the film doesn’t have its redeeming qualities. The cast did a damn fine job, the effects team knew how to keep things inside the meager budget without letting them look or feel cheap, and for everything I said earlier about the direction, there’s no denying that first-time helmer Nick Robertson has some raw talent and potential just waiting to be refined.
That said though, at the end of the day The Pack is one of those films that doesn’t know how to just exist as what it is. A film like this needs to be lean, because the second you start trying to expand it, you better make sure you have something of substance to fill the space. This didn’t. Not to play the comparison game, but recent standout Green Room is a good example of what happens when a director trusts their small film to just be small. And as Robertson works on that refinement of his talents, I hope that’s the first lesson he learns.
It’s a good-lookin’ film! The 1080p 2.35:1 transfer is fine, and considering the majority of the film takes place at night nothing gets lost in the darkness. But even so, it’s not something I’d consider gorgeous, or a demo disc. It’s just a good-lookin’ film. Same with the audio and its DTS-HD 5.1 track.
There’s a trailer and a little BTS featurette that’s interesting and short enough to watch once but ultimately fluff.
It could be a fine Sunday afternoon movie if you found it on Netflix, I wouldn’t even deter you from spending a dollar on it at Redbox, but it’s nothing I’d recommend you going out of your way to see, let alone buy. Though I do hold out some hope that I’ll have much more enthusiastic things to say about Robertson’s sophomore effort.