French horror is a genre that's grown exponentially in the past six years or so, at least when it comes to what's been making its way to U.S. shores. High Tension seemed to open the doors of interest and delivered levels of violence and gore most modern theatrically released American horror had been lacking up until that point. Inside, Frontier(s), Martyrs, Mutants, and The Horde followed in the coming years and continued to get praise from horror fanatics and gore hounds. The thing about French horror is that there are no limitations. It has no boundaries. That's the main reason fans love it as much as they do. While The Pack can be considered part of the same group as these films, it isn't nearly as powerful as any of the films mentioned.
Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne) is traveling cross-country without any real destination in mind. She attracts the attention of a biker gang and picks up a hitchhiker named Max (Benjamin Biolay) to throw them off her trail. Charlotte and Max eventually end up at La Spack, a dilapidated shack that's been modified into a roadside restaurant. Their paths cross with the biker gang once again and a bit of a scuffle breaks out. The fight is broken up by the woman who runs La Spack (Yolande Moreau) and Max disappears after going into the bathroom and never coming back out. Charlotte then finds herself trapped in a cage after snooping around in places she shouldn't. Their captors then make themselves known and begin preparing Charlotte and another prisoner as meals for a horde of cannibalistic guests.
I had this feeling of anxiousness and excitement as The Pack began. A good portion of the French horror films mentioned in this review were a little disappointing, but the interest is still there. When this genre does deliver, it's something special. The Pack was odd right from the start. There's a lot of joking around in the beginning of the film and a ton of dialogue about sex. Nearly all of the characters have bizarre quirks; Charlotte doesn't seem to want anything to do with men, Max is emotionless and cold, the La Spack owner is obviously up to something, and Chinaski (Philippe Nahon), an old man who calls himself a sheriff of sorts, walks a bike around, says, "Hi ho Silver" to it and makes horse noises repeatedly, and runs around in a "I f*** on the first date" T-shirt. It's difficult to get a read on where The Pack is headed when it has elements of comedy, mystery, and thriller as it gets going.
But The Pack eventually goes down the horror path though and mostly sticks to it. Its music is fairly haunting as it jumps back and forth between sounding like a warped lullaby and trying to seduce you with grungy and distorted guitars. The first scene at La Spack sticks out, as well. You hear nothing but The Twilight Zone pinball machine noises in the background while sloppy takedowns and yelling fill up the foreground during the melee between Charlotte and Max and the biker gang. You also probably won't ever hear, "John Wayne," without thinking of this film after viewing it. But once these creatures are introduced is when things get interesting and everything takes a turn into horror territory. Imagine the crawlers from The Descent breeding with Voldemort from Harry Potter and you have a pretty good idea of what these suckers look like. They're bloodthirsty and their hunger seems to be unquenchable. The only downside is that there's so little of them. The entire film is a slow burn to the last twenty minutes or so. While the finale is the most intriguing aspect of The Pack, it doesn't fully deliver. The ending is really peculiar; not overly good or bad but unusual. Nothing is really resolved or fully explained. And somehow nobody who picks up a gun in this film has ever heard of a headshot. The Pack does nothing more than whet your appetite and make you wish it had more to offer.
The Pack does have its moments. It's at the very least intriguing from start to finish and has some pretty fantastic make-up effects. There's also some outstanding gore featured whether it involves a severed head, exploding appendages, or a major organ being ripped from someone's chest and fed upon. Fans of the genre should still check this out. The downside is that The Pack is the weakest French horror film to date and is mostly kind of forgettable by the time you finish it. Despite its fair share of dismemberment, bloodshed, and excellent make-up, The Pack never really gets beyond mediocre territory.