Monday, 20 June 2011


Film: The Pack
UK Release date: TBC
Certificate: 18
Director: Frank Richard
Starring: Yolande Moreau, Emilie Dequenne, Benjamin Biolay
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Country: France
Reviewer: Adam Wing

Billed as a French horror comedy, Franck Richard’s The Pack (La Meute) rips flesh from several breeds of horror and throws them in a blender. After being hassled by a motorbike gang in the middle of nowhere, loner Charlotte Massot (Emilie Dequenne) picks up hitchhiker Max (Benjamin Biolay) for added security. When Max goes missing at the La Spack truck-stop cafĂ© and she investigates his disappearance, Charlotte discovers that she’s being set up to take part in an unholy ritual. Philippe Nahon and Yolande Moreau join Dequenne and Biolay in this peculiar take on the zombie sub-genre.

Three horror movies for the price of one, that’s what you get when you spend the night with The Pack. Coming on like The Ordeal, Franck Richard’s debut introduces a familiar collection of oddball characters and quirky situations. The fledgling director laces the first act with an eerie unease that rarely strays from the lines of conformity, but his suspenseful build up remains suitably sinister and casually cool.

The second act changes direction completely, treading familiar terrain graced by the likes of Saw and Hostel, as Charlotte finds herself locked up and tortured for reasons unknown. Unlike recent French horror outing Caged, The Pack keeps its cards close to its chest. The big reveal doesn’t drag the movie down to predictable levels of humdrum horror clichĂ©, and the second act closes with a promising twist that takes the film into darker territory. The final act plays its joker, or rather its zombie card, and Franck Richard piles on the darkness with relative success. The ending is perhaps confused, but there’s much to enjoy in this darkly comic feature debut.

Strong performances are a necessity, and Emilie Dequenne and Yolande Moreau are on hand to deliver the goods. Dequenne makes for a gutsy heroine, feisty at first but increasingly vulnerable as the shit hits the fan. Moreau utilises every inch of her hulking frame, overflowing with screen presence and subtle menace, La Spack is a memorable screen villain we need to see more of. The supporting players are a curious bunch, but they sure make the most of their limited screen time. You have to feel sorry for the French Tourist Board though, heaven knows why anybody would want to holiday in France after watching films like The Pack, even the local cop wears a t-shirt that reads ‘Fuck on the first date’, and he’s supposed to be the respectable one.

The Pack’s biggest failing is that it doesn’t know what kind of horror movie it wants to be; Franck Richard changes direction on two occasions and fully succeeds in neither. It’s not quite bizarre enough to satisfy the offbeat sect and not quite gory enough to impress the extremists, furthermore, any attempts at tension are rarely sustained beyond initial intrigue. Having said that, The Pack more than succeeds from a visual standpoint, and Franck Richard has a healthy future in horror if he can build upon his impressive camerawork and heart stopping visuals. The zombie/monster hybrids might look like they’ve been ripped from the caves of The Descent, but their welcome intrusion keeps the rotting flesh of zombie horror both fresh and invigorating.

The Pack tips its blood soaked hat to the many components of modern horror, but outstays its welcome in none of them. What it lacks in terror, suspense and horror, it makes up for in foreboding tone, absurd humour, compelling performances and disturbing visuals. It’s easy to see why some people might come away disappointed, but The Pack remains a curiously compelling experience all the same.

The results are uneven but entertaining none the less, and the new wave of French horror continues to impress with The Packs uncompromising style and offbeat sensibilities.

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