You'd be forgiven for thinking that the recent French import The Pack is about a pack of wild dogs who attack people and eat them. This would be a logical assumption, given that the 1977 horror film of the same name covers the "killer canine" route -- but that's why you read movie reviews at sites like FEARnet: to get the scoop before (or perhaps after) you drop $5 on another horror flick from France. The bad news is that The Pack is completely bereft of feral dogs; the good news is that it's still a pretty solid French import. It's no Martyrs or Inside, but that's a pretty unfair standard when you think about it.
The Pack is about a tough young woman, her unassuming hitchhiker companion, a gang of sleazy bikers, and a nasty old woman who runs a truck stop in which several (or all) of the aforementioned characters beat, chase, and/or tie up one another. Why? Not for simple cannibalism or even for the joy of the hunt. Nope, this nasty little flyspeck of French countryside has a pit full of ravenous monsters in it, and it needs a few "normal" humans to keep the food supply moving. There is not much (or at all) in the way of the depth or subtext that is found in Martyrs, Inside, or even High Tension. The rather generically straightforward The Pack has one or two surprises up its sleeve, a good deal of gore, a small dose of suspense, and a finale that probably won't have you singing Disney tunes any time soon.
For a first-time writer/director (as The Pack's Franck Richard is, as a matter of fact), the patchwork Pack clearly comes from a variety of disparate (and recent) inspirations, but the young filmmaker still finds a few ways to keep the slim plot-line moving, and once we get well into Act II, The Pack manages to combine a variety of horrific sub-genres into a concoction that's just joyously gruesome enough to keep the horror fans happy. Like most of his French cohorts, Richard knows how to use frantic music, dank locations, and a frankly grim sense of humor to keep things from ever getting too dull. Leading lady Yolande Moreau cuts through the carnage and presents a heroine with some attitude, and ah yes, almost as if by law, this being a French horror film, the always amusing Phillippe Nahon pops up to play an important role.
If The Pack doesn't exactly forge any new ground, as several French horror films manage to do, then at least it stands as a testament that low-budget French horror flicks are here to stay, and even the middle-of-the-road ones seem to have a little style and energy to call their own. The Pack basically has a few twists you might see coming, and then Act III is pretty much high-energy mayhem. It all seems pretty familiar, even at its best moments, but we could be hearing more from this filmmaker soon. With a slightly more unique idea, and perhaps a larger budget, one suspects that Franck Richard could soon return with a marked improvement over the watchable yet mostly forgettable The Pack.