After being treated to a series of incredible and vastly disturbing French horror movies a few years back with titles like INSIDE and MARTYRS it was only a matter of time where some more average to decent French horrors landed in front of me- THE HORDE and MUTANTS for example. The violence is still relatively high compared to U.S. productions but still a bit tame for French horror. When I first heard about the premise to THE PACK (LA MUETE) I was giddy with excitement about the possibility of a return to the violent assault on the senses with that of a creature feature. Once I finally finished watching it my excitement faded once again to a nostalgic fondness of years before as the film never quite lived up to its potential.
I’ve read a few different plot descriptions for THE PACK and most get it right, right up until the last sentence. The film follows a young woman, Charlotte, who is more or less just drifting- ending up wherever she happens to be when she runs out of music to listen to. An altercation with some bikers causes her to pick up a hitchhiker, Max and continue her travels. Charlotte and Max end up at a diner named after the owner, La Spack and before long Max leaves to go to the bathroom but disappears. Charlotte returns later to search for Max but is knocked unconscious by La Spack and wakes up confined in a cage next to another man who does nothing but repeat “John Wayne” over and over. It becomes evident La Spack is preparing them as the meal to someone or something and Charlotte must do everything she can to survive.
The part most plot descriptions drop the ball at is by describing “the pack” as cannibals, which I find wildly inaccurate and not nearly as interesting. The pack are not merely humans that feast on flesh but instead look much more like undead creatures that feast in blood. Not once do you see one of the creatures actually eat a single body part but instead ferociously lick at and drink blood that falls to the ground, out of a glass container and out of a freshly created wound- plus they rest and emerge from the ground. They don’t appear to be vampires but something else entirely- a fact that I feel makes THE PACK as interesting as it is.
The movie looks very good but the more of the movie I watched the more I felt this sense of it being rushed or that the idea wasn’t fully realized. Especially once the pack is revealed their moments in the film are very abbreviated and the explanation for how or why they exist is not as well done and how you defeat them is hardly discussed minus a throwaway explanation before the final confrontation. The very first time they are introduced the lighting is way too dark and it was hard to see what exactly was going on.
The gore seemed surprisingly tame for a French production although don’t be discouraged as there are some pretty awesome gore effects later on in the film. It seems like it takes way too long to introduce the subject the entire film is based upon which is unfortunate because the makeup on the creatures is pretty awesome and super creepy. The pack themselves snarl and screech which is pretty unsettling and they move like zombies but when they attack it’s pretty quick and brutal.
THE PACK has a very old school creature feature to it but combines the darkness that most French films become known for. Characters make jokes at several occasions and some of the dialogue has a cheesy horror vibes to it as does some of the violence, but there are also moments of a more brutal variety as well. The standoff during the finale happens incredibly quickly but also has some visually striking moments including one of the main characters grappling with a member of the pack while flames are engulfing the setting around them. It’s these moments of near brilliance that made THE PACK so close to being one of those unforgettable French horrors rather than just a decent offering.
Overall THE PACK is frustratingly inconsistent but remains a good slice of bloody entertainment. Due to the potential for greatness that lurked somewhere within the frames I was a bit let down, but that could be from my lofty expectations from previous French horror films. A promising premise, great cinematography and some very cool monster effects kept me from being extremely bummed at the end but it’s still easy to frown at the thought of what could have been to what it ultimately is. While not a must see I still really enjoyed THE PACK and fully endorse fans of French horror to give it a spin.
Reviewed By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)