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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.06.10] United Kingdom France movie review horror

Year: 2010
Directors: Franck Richard
Writers: Franck Richard
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

[Editor's Note: Also see Ben's review of The Pack from Frightfest]

It’s quite alarming seeing the lonely landlady from ‘Amilie’, the cheerful matriarch from ‘MicMacs’, actress Yolande Moreau, as La Spack, a murderous psychopath who lures girls to their doom with the help of her hitchhiker son Max, played with brooding menace by French musician and cool guy Benjamin Biolay. Into their twisted home arrives Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne), a chain smoking punk rock girl taking her own journey through rural France. She picks up Max, undisturbed by his cold gaze, and they share driving duties for a while, before stopping off at La Spack’s truck stop which is run by her iron fist and booted heel. She welcomes them at first, but after a gang of local bikers start a fight she kicks them all out, toting a shotgun and a few creative curse words. The Pack, while not the best film at the year’s festival, is far from the worst, and offers some refreshing twists and plenty of gore for your buck.

Max has disappeared in the confusion, and rather than shrugging it off and continuing alone (the sensible thing to do in any horror film) self-righteous Charlotte starts sniffing around the area looking for him, bumping into the local (retired) cop Chinaski (Philippe Nahon) who offers her a few wise words of warning, basically to leave as soon as possible. I’m sure you readers can guess what happens next, it involves a cage in the basement, a sinister demonic force living in the very soil of the Earth, and a chair that feeds blood and possibly other bodily fluids into whoever is unfortunate enough to be strapped into it. What, you mean you didn’t guess that?

The Pack is an effective and gory little thriller set in the haunting misty landscape of broken down cars, dilapidated farm houses and weird locals, most of whom you wouldn’t want to spend the night with. Director Franck Richard has a great eye for old fashioned visual creeps and thankfully keeps the action going along at a brisk pace, adding dashes of dark humour and ‘what the hell?’ moments. As soon as the afore mentioned cage in the cellar was introduced I feared an hour long slog of Charlotte being tortured, or skinned alive or something, but the resourceful chick soon breaks out and discovers all kinds of other creepy goings on.

I’m fairly confident that while it’ll never set the world on fire, there is an audience for this kind of ghoulish terror who’ll eat it right up, and it’s not a badly made film at all. It does dabble with a few of the clichés we’ve come to expect, but it also confounded my expectations completely when the real bad guys are introduced and we realise that La Spack is simply a means to an end, with a curse of her own to burden. Charlotte is a good leading character, played with suitable vim by Dequenne. Her reactions to the horror taking place around her are not the usual ‘help me, help me’, nor those of an unbelievable super-girl. She’s tough but vulnerable in a way that made me root for her. Although Biolay has little dialogue, his Max is a chilling screen presence and his relationship with La Spack just enigmatic enough to suggest he’s got plans of his own. The real draw here though is obviously Moreau, who turns in a demented performance as the cruel old crone with the demonic laugh. Oh man, that evil laugh, I hope never to hear again outside of a dream or a Jeunet film.

Charlotte also tells Max a dirty joke to break the ice, and it’s one of the funniest I’ve heard in years, so if you’re unsure, know that there is at least one filthy laugh in here.

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Ben Austwick (11 years ago) Reply

Great review. I enjoyed The Pack a lot but thought the rushed ending spoiled it a bit.

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