Emilie Dequenne, travelling through French countryside, picks up hitchhiker Benjamin Biolay. They take a break at a diner/rest stop, where a gang of bikers nearly rape them both. However, just as things appear to be back to normal, Biolay goes to the dunny and never returns. Whilst investigating his disappearance, Dequenne is knocked on the head, waking to find herself captive, caged like an animal. I’ll leave it to you to find out who the title ‘Pack’ happens to be, and just what purpose they are supposed to serve. Yolande Moreau is La Spack, the diner owner who is much more than meets the eye. Philippe Nahon turns up as a nosy cop.
Written and directed by a debuting Franck Richard, I had heard mixed things about this French/Belgian horror pic, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. It seems to have been very much influenced by American grindhouse horror of the 70s and 80s, as the film’s plot reminded me of a combination of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Motel Hell”. I had a good time with it, and am rather surprised that opinion has been divided. One might suggest that perhaps I’m easy to please, but a quick scan of my reviews (or a conversation with anyone who knows me) will reveal that I don’t seem to like anything at all (Which isn’t true, but I do have my curmudgeonly moments).
The film gets off to the best start possible, with strong opening shots of a country road and thick, enveloping fog. The scenery is chilling in more than one sense of the word, and the film begins with an incredible sense of dread. It’s an impressively shot and impressively scored film, too, so kudos to cinematographer Laurent Bares and composer Chris Spencer. There’s one particularly disgusting bit where a whole lot of blood pours out of a hole in a guy’s head that I must admit taking delight in.
On the downside, the bikers come from the comical “Last House on the Left” side of ridiculously over-the-top thugs (with dopey names like Bazooka Joe and Jordan Minnesota), but thankfully their participation in the film is limited and ultimately a red herring. Once we get to the twist about midway, it’s bizarre but nice and gory, kind of like “Motel Hell” done straight and with a touch of George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”) to boot. Some will find the shift jarring, but for me, it wasn’t so bad. It was like switching from one subgenre to another, not one genre to another.
The film boasts fine work by Emilie Dequenne and especially Yolande Moreau (who is absolutely terrific), but the cop played by Philippe Nahon (who had an important role in the visceral French horror pic “Haute Tension”) is made out to be completely stupid, in addition to being a cliché. I also didn’t like the film’s ending, which isn’t clever, it’s pointless. Thankfully it’s only right at the end, unlike “Haute Tension”, an otherwise terrific film with a lame twist at the ¾ mark that nearly killed it. I also think the makeup unfortunately makes the film look a bit like “Attack of the Sphincter People”.
Still, I liked most of this a whole lot more than I had expected. If you enjoy your 70s American horror, you’ll surely like this Hell, at least it’s not “Sheitan”, that was godawful.
An incredibly good-looking, modern French attempt at a throwback to an American grindhouse horror pic. It’s pretty good. I hope Richard sticks with the horror genre, because he might just give us a true winner next time out.