Film review by: Witney Seibold
This review will make a good companion review for yesterday’s review of “51.” I’ll wait here while you look for it and read it.
Back? In my review of the straight-to-video cheapie “51,” I pointed out that it’s surprisingly solid, and treats its old-hat exploitation conceits with a modicum of respect and skill, making for a surprisingly entertaining film. Franck Richard‘s peculiar horror film “The Pack” has a similar impact. The story itself may be familiar to anyone who has seen “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but the details of the telling make it stand apart a bit. Indeed, some of the details are so strange that “The Pack,” for certain stretches, begins to take on an surreal, “Twin Peaks” quality that will jibe easily with anyone seeking something more striking than any of the dull horror films playing in cinemas.
“The Pack” follows the misadventures of a young lady named Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne), a dejected Goth gal on a road trip to the big city. Charlotte, even though she doesn’t have much dialogue or exposition-heavy backstory, comes across as a solid character. Thanks to Duquenne’s performance, she manages to stand taller than the just-some-random-kid we’ve seen in other films of this ilk; she is more than cannon fodder. Charlotte picks up a handsome stranger (Benjamin Biolay), and they stop at an out-of-the-way rest stop, overseen by the matronly and monstrous La Spack (Yolande Moraeu). After being accosted by a pack of bisexual bikers (they express an interest in raping both Charlotte AND her male companion), the hitchhiker uses the bathroom, from which he does not emerge. When Charlotte goes to investigate, she is attacked, and spirited through a hole in the wall where she is subjected to tortures, force-feeding, and a horrible scheme that I dare not reveal.
I will reveal, as the video box does, that there are indeed blood-drinking ghouls at some point, but I will not say how they play into the plot, or how certain characters may or may not be connected.
The film was shot, it seems, exclusively on overcast days, giving the entire affair a glitteringly muddy pall. You’ll not see too many horror films that look this moody.
About those surreal moments: When our two heroes first arrive at the ominous roadside rest stop, they see a woman, wrapped head-to-to in a plastic sheet, run, silently, across the building’s porch. She runs into a wall, and falls over, unconscious. Our heroes look at her for a brief moment, and then continue inside to get a cup of coffee. This event is not commented on. It’s like the filmmakers were so keep on invoking the tone of “Twin Peaks” that the dead Laura Palmer managed to desperately stumble over from a parallel universe, only to run into a wall. There is also a police officer named Chinaski (the Charles Bukowski reference should not go unnoticed) who wears an overcoat, a hat, shorts, and a white t-shirt with the the English phrase “I FUCK ON THE FIRST DATE” emblazoned across it, who gives sage advice to our beleaguered travelers, and proceeds to sneak off for the bulk of the film. We do see him in one cutaway scene later on, and he is merrily sticking breadsticks up his nose in a faraway diner someplace. This kooky old man, we intuit, is our hero, and he’s a goofball.
There are countless films about city slickers being captured and tormented by a group of hick rural crazies. Some are horrible (“Wolf Creek”) and some are grand classics (theTCM, mentioned above, “The Hills Have Eyes”). “The Pack” is a wonderfully bugnuts Gallic twist on the old conventions.