• Pack, The



    Released by Shout Factory
    Released on: July 5, 2016
    Directed by: Nick Robertson
    Cast: Jack Campbell, Anna Lise Phillips, Hamish Phillips, Katie Moore
    Year: 2015

    The Movie:

    The Wilsons are a struggling Australian family living in a remote, rural area. The mother Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) is a veterinarian seemingly specializing in dogs and the father Adam (Jack Campbell) is a down to earth, gritty sheep farmer. The couple is hard working and capable, yet they cannot seem to stay ahead of the mounting bills and bankers threatening to take away the family homestead. Their lives, as well as those of their children Sophie (Katie Moore) and Henry (Hamish Phillips), are further turned upside down when their livestock is discovered mutilated in the grazing field. Adam nor Carla can explain the mysterious deaths until the family’s house is besieged by a pack of wild, flesh eating dogs. To survive the night the Wilson family must work together to out maneuver the vicious animals standing at their doorstep.

    The Pack is the debut film from Australian director Nick Robertson. It has a glossy sheen and slick professionalism one would not expect from a first time filmmaker. The performances are routinely strong and the film has a continuously building pace of suspense. Robertson does not blow his load too early in the film’s 88 minute running time. Rather the director allows the melodramatic tension to build within the Wilson family dynamic for nearly 30 minutes before cutting lose with the first on-screen animal attack. The Wilsons have more than dogs to worry about as their failing business, along with the growing frustration the teenaged Sophie feels while living far from modern civilization, brings vicious dogs of another kind to their doorstep in the form of uncaring bankers. If anything could be read in The Pack it is the traditional domestic family, along with traditional gender norms, is the only safeguard against the dangers of the modern world. The murderous dogs of the film’s title are merely representations of the human animals that destroy homes and ruin the hopes and dreams of normal, everyday families.

    It is here where I find issues with The Pack. It is hard to look at the bank manager (Charles Mayer) as a villain, despite the way the character was designed and written. He gives the Wilsons a fair offer for their house and he is more than right to say the farm has become a noose around the neck of the family. However, the audience is supposed to side with and find sympathy for the hardheaded Adam, with his gruff voice and manual labor styled clothing, as he threatens the banker, who is dressed in a black, funeral style suit. We are also supposed to see Sophie as a stereotypical self-centered teenaged girl when she is more than right to call her father selfish. He is too proud to admit defeat despite the consequences it has on his family. Of the four family members the audience is meant to identify most strongly with the young Henry. He is shown bonding with the animals in his mother’s small, ill equipped clinic and who, like his father, loves living on the farm. Henry also, for some reason, has tin can filled with rifle ammunition in the fort like structure he uses as his fortress of solitude. This of course comes to play out in the film’s finale as a kind of deus ex machina. I suppose it is intended to show Henry’s resourcefulness, I think it just makes him appear weird.

    Ultimately, The Pack is about vicious dogs, so, you may be asking, how are the attack scenes. All-in-all, they are pretty good. There are only three or four such scenes but they are shot well with convincing special effects. The most brutal of attacks is also the most contrived. It happens, no surprise, to the bank manager, who for some reason stops his car in the middle of the street and walks into the woods to urinate. Why he walked so deep into the woods is anyone’s guess but he’s torn to shreds all the same. The bank manager’s death happens right after he mentions the bank will foreclose on the farm unless the Wilsons take the bank’s offer, so I guess we are supposed to cheer his dismemberment. His death does not solve the family’s financial issues. They will still lose the house unless Adam grows up and thinks of his family.

    The Pack is a pretty well made film and is shockingly serious for a film about murderous dogs. The film’s serious tone and elevation of the workingman’s pride is the film’s downfall. What could have been a fun, gory good time is instead a somber, somewhat bland film about how gritty, strong rural folk are better than their slick city counterparts.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Pack comes to Blu-ray via the Shout Factory and their Scream Factory imprint. The film’s 2.35:1 image is clean and artifact free. The many night scenes look great with awesome shades of black and blue. While most things happen in the dark the audience is always able to decipher the action on screen.

    The audio on the disc is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, it is mixed well and dialogue is always audible, which is wonderful for a film with thick accents and plenty of whispering. In addition, the sound effects representing the growls of the dogs sound great and there is a layer of depth to them that makes the viewer feel surrounded. The disc comes equipped with English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

    The Pack’s disc features a rather standard trailer and a typical EPK style making-of running just under 8 minutes.

    The Final Word:

    The Pack is well made and professional but it is too serious and lacks the fun of many other animal attack films. The filmmakers do an admirable job presenting a realistic vicious pack but I wanted more kills. In addition, I had a difficult time siding with Adam, a character I felt let his pride get in his way of making responsible decisions for his family.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screencaps!