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  Pack, The Doggone Dangerous
Year: 2015
Director: Nick Robertson
Stars: Jack Campbell, Anna Lise Phillips, Katie Moore, Hamish Phillips, Charles Mayer, Kieran Thomas McNamara, Dianna Buckland
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Last night there was an incident in a remote Australian farmhouse; details are sketchy at the moment but it appears the farmer and his wife were mauled to death by wild animals, possibly a pack of killer dogs. Not too far away is another farm, and Adam Wilson (Jack Campbell) is struggling to make ends meet so the last thing he needs when he ventures out into the field to check on his flock of sheep is to find a number of them lying dead on the grass with their guts torn out. He has to put this down to sheer ill fortune, but ponders what he can do to stop it happening again as he collects the carcasses for burning. Meanwhile his family of wife Carla (Anna Lise Phillips), who is a vet, teen daughter Sophie (Katie Moore) and son Henry (Hamish Phillips) may be in peril...

There is a surprising amount of killer dog horror movies, as a subgenre of the revenge of nature cycle they properly emerged in the nineteen-seventies when this style was really taking off, but you could even trace them back to the notoriously shoddy yet surprisingly influential The Killer Shrews back in the fifties. In fact, there was already a killer dog flick from forty years before this called The Pack, that one with Joe Don Baker battling the pooches, not to mention the rather more uncomplicatedly titled Dogs, or Day of the Animals from around the same time, though they all tended to be overshadowed by Stephen King's Cujo which was filmed in the mid-eighties and while a modest hit became the go-to murderous mutt movie in popular parlance.

Just recently to this Michelle Rodriguez had tackled The Breed, a very similar effort, though White God put an alternative spin on what was becoming prone to cliché by ramping up the blank weirdness. So what could director Nick Robertson and his screenwriter Evan Randall Green do to conjure up something original for a wild animals horror? On this evidence, nothing very revolutionary, but then again you didn't need to strike out for fresh ideas when the siege narrative was such a classic, cast iron premise, be that siege from humans, aliens, zombies or creatures, and as far as that went The Pack was neatly presented on a low budget, though whether it would stick in the memory was a different matter.

A film like this would be nothing without a decent monster (or a collection of them), as The Killer Shrews found out to its cost, and Robertson implemented the latest technology available to the production to create a mixture of actual guard dogs made up with black colouring to look like wolves, puppetry for those closeup shots, and what had by now become a staple of horror, computer graphics for those images that could not be easily rendered with the real animals. These results were really rather excellent, with a smooth transition between the three approaches that thanks to the gloom scenes took place in would be a challenge to the audience to work out which technique had been used in each shot. Now all we needed were our potential victims to combat the menace.

The cast, such as it was (four characters and a couple of short supporting roles), did not let the side down, with the somewhat hackneyed dynamic between the family consisting of loving parents under pressure from their dwindling finances, the daughter resentful at not getting to flee the nest like her friends have, and the young kid who has been alone so long that he is tending towards weirdo solitary pursuits, though not so much that he alienated the viewer. That said, it did seem as if ninety percent of this was watching this bunch creeping about in semi-darkness, Robertson wanted to turn the screws on the tension as far as he could, but there was a point when you wondered if it was not better to have something happen every once in a while, or at least more often, to make more eventful. When things did occur, they were worth waiting for in the main, and there was a nice sense of the natural world closing in much as there had been in the king of the Aussie nature's vengeance flicks, Long Weekend. All in all, a professional, easily enjoyable effort. Music by Tom Schutzinger.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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