The Pack (2010)

They’re expecting you for dinner

Writer: Franck Richard
Director: Franck Richard

The Pack (‘La Muete’) is an interesting French horror movie that combines unpleasant violence with a great sense of visual style. It reminded me a little of the Cohen Brothers’ Fargo.

The story begins with a young woman driving across rural France. She picks up a hitchhiker and the two of them stop at a run-down diner. After a run-in with some local thugs, the hitchhiker disappears. Charlotte decides to investigate and discovers that people are being taken and used to feed a group of ghouls.

I don’t want to say more than that – one of the things I like about this film is the way the story unfolds slowly. We get lots of hints and foreshadowing but some are red herrings and the big picture takes a long time to emerge. I also like the way the film plays with expectations as to who the heroes and villains will be.

It is nasty, there is some graphic violence, but not really gore as such. The matter-of-factness of it makes it, for me, even scarier. The whole film just oozes unpleasant atmosphere, from the foggy opening scenes through the dialogue to the scenes with the ghouls.

Characters are well drawn, all being slightly larger than life but not enough to puncture the atmosphere. In particular Yolande Moreau is superb as La Spack. The main character, Charlotte (Emilie Dequenne) is nicely drawn – she’s obviously a stong, tough woman but not so much so that she doesn’t react appropriately at the sight of sudden, extreme violence.

I said that takes a while for the ‘big picture’ to emerge. Actually I don’t think we ever do now exactly what’s going on. There’s some reference to ecological issues which – wisely – is not taken very far. But you will need to be able to suspend a lot of disbelief and go with the flow, especially regarding the ending which I found rather difficult to accept. If you like a story with all the loose ends neatly tied up then this film will annoy you.

The Pack is original, stylish and unpleasant in the right way. The storytelling and pacing let it down a little, but it’s still well worth watching.