Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Pack: When Dogs Run Free

Remember Meryl Streep uttering the famous line: “a dingo ate my baby?” Maybe she got off easy. A pack of wild dogs is out to gnaw on the entire Wilson family, as well as anyone who might visit them in Nick Robertson’s The Pack (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York at the IFC Center.

The Wilsons are facing foreclosure, but it really isn’t their fault. They have suffered unusually heavy livestock losses over the last few months. Unfortunately, their slimy mortgage banker came out to float a lowball offer on their Outback sheep ranch, but he will not make it back to the office. He’s about to become rabid puppy chow.

Look, this is what happens when leash laws are not properly enforced. It leads to anarchy and crimes against nature. Weather-beaten Adam Wilson and his veterinary-trained wife Carla will have to corral their moody teenager Sophie and her bratty little brother Henry if they plan to make any sort of run for it. There is a good chance the dogs have them out-classed.

The Pack is not a terrible animals-attack movie, but it pales in comparison to Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, which wasn’t even a genre film, per se. Most of the Wilsons are relatively likable, down-to-earth, and proactive, but young Henry’s penchant for hoarding bullets is an annoyingly ill-conceived subplot. Presumably, most Outback kids grow up learning how to safely handle firearms and ammunition at an early age. His fascination really does not make sense.

Frankly, the stars of The Pack are the German Shepherds trained by the Guard Dog Training Center and the animatronic dog puppets designed by Steve Boyle. They definitely look snarly and cunning. Apparently, the act of “sneaking up” on actors is tough to train, but they nailed it cold. Amongst the people, Anna Lise Phillips creates the strongest discrete personality as the resourceful Carla Wilson.

The Wilson house sure looks like a classic Outback hacienda, giving the film a decent sense of place. Cinematographer Benjamin Shirley also captures some terrific close-ups of his canine cast. Nevertheless, the film never gets much beyond just okay. In fact, by horror standards, it feels frustratingly restrained. Only recommended for super-keen fans of the rampaging beast sub-genre, The Pack opens this Friday (2/5) in New York.