Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Pack (2010)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

During a road trip in the countryside of northern France, a loner named Charlotte Massot (Emilie Dequenne) decides to pickup Max (Benjamin Biolay), a hitchhiker. Charlotte has some doubts about Max at first, but she’ll have to worry about bigger problems, when a group of rowdy biker thugs threaten Charlotte and Max at a local diner/truck stop. The biker gang overpowers Charlotte and Max during a struggle, but La Spack (Yolande Moreau), the owner of the diner, uses her shotgun to defuse the tension. La Spack forces the biker gang to leave with the promise of fired shots, and Max takes a break to use the bathroom.

As time passes, Charlotte realizes something is strange, when Max disappears without a trace. Chinaski (Philippe Nahon), a local retired police officer, warns Charlotte about the dangers of helping hitchhikers, but he uses his skills as a policeman to help Charlotte solve the mystery of Max’s disappearance.

Curiosity gets the best of Charlotte, and she decides to investigate La Spack’s diner during the late hours of the night. For her first clue, Charlotte picks up Max’s bandana, and she finds a hidden room in the men’s bathroom. Charlotte peeks her head inside the secret room, but the investigation is cut short after a quick blow to the back of the head.

In the morning, Charlotte awakes as a prisoner inside a cage with another delusional and petrified man as her cellmate. Chinaski is still on the outside, and he’s unaware of Charlotte’s plight. Charlotte has to think of an escape plan before the next full moon, because Charlotte and the other prisoner are live bait and food for a pack of ghoulish creatures……

I give the nod to Dequenne for the best performance here. Charlotte is a tough and rugged lone wolf, who refuses to quit, and Dequenne shows some believable raw emotion during Charlotte’s moments of desperation. And there’s a scene where a biker thug spits a thick, hanging loogie into Charlotte’s cup at the diner. Dequenne calmly drinks from the cup, and she refuses to break eye contact with the biker. Nasty scene that shows off Charlote’s resilience, and Dequenne’s unflinching demeanor pulls everything together.

Runner up goes to Yolande Moreau. La Spack is a deranged  and delusional sociopath, who believes in her mission, and Moreau brings a creepy dark sense of humor to this character. Nahon is good for a few laughs as the dimwitted (there’s a scene, where Nahon sticks straws in his ears and nose to look like walrus) retired cop, but Chinaski proves he can still pull a trick out of his sleeve every now and then (more on that later). No big complaints about Biolay. He’s believable as the subservient follower, but Max has a change of heart towards the end.

Who’s feeding the creatures? La Spack. That’s right. La Spack kidnaps unsuspecting victims at the diner to feed to the creatures, but she needs help to lure innocent victims. Enter Max. Max uses the cover of a hitchhiker to lure the victims to the diner, and La Spack is Max’s mother. La Spack suffered a severe nervous breakdown after Max’s brother died in a mining accident. Max’s brother died with other miners in the accident, and Max refused to abandon his mother in her time of need, so he dedicated himself to the role of the loyal son.

How do you lure the creatures from the ground? Blood. The creatures feed off of power from a full moon, and when blood from the victims hits the soil, they emerge for their feast. But something strange happens during Charlotte’s feeding: The creatures pass on the opportunity to eat Charlotte. Instead, the creatures devour the male prisoner.

Meanwhile, a suspicious Chinaski continues his search for a missing Charlotte. Chinaski pulls a fast one on La Spack, when she offers him a cup of coffee. La Spack poisoned the coffee, but Chinaski dumped the cup of coffee into a house plant. An “unconscious” Chinaski played possum inside a wheelbarrow, forcing La Spack to lead him to the torture chamber, where she prepares the creature’s food and Charlotte.

Chinaski rescues Charlotte, and a furious Charlotte uses the shotgun to shot and kill La Spack at point blank range. Max joins Charlotte in a desperate mission to fight the creatures before the full moon emerges (remember, the creatures are pretty much invincible during a full moon)……but La Spack isn’t dead. She breaks out of the cage to strangle Chinaski, and eventually, she drives the nail into the coffin with a beheading.

For a last stand, Charlotte and Max join the biker gang in a rundown house to fight off the group of invading creatures. The creatures eliminate the biker gang, and Max is trapped inside the house after a fire. Outside, Charlotte tries to make a run for it, but she trips and falls in an open field. The creatures surround her, and one creature starts eating Charlotte. During the feeding, Charlotte loses consciousness.

The next scene shows Charlotte working at the diner, and she’s pregnant. Charlotte is smoking a cigarette, while she watches Max lure another victim for the creatures. Here, The Pack gives us the impression Charlotte is working with Max to continue his mother’s job, and Charlotte is pregnant with Max’s child (Charlotte had a soft spot for Max). In reality, Charlotte is stuck in a dream. Yep. Charlotte didn’t escape. Instead, a decapitated Charlotte is hanging upside down in an open field, and to end the movie, you’ll see a splatter of running blood from Charlotte’s upside down POV.

I have mixed feelings for the finale. On one hand, the final showdown in the house was full of suspense and mayhem, and the fake out dream sequence cliffhanger really caught me off guard. One minute, you think Charlotte is happy, pregnant, and working with Max to feed the creatures, and in a matter of seconds, Charlotte wakes up to realize her impossible dilemma. She’s literally hanging in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the creatures to finish her off, and there’s no one around to save her. Are the creatures coming for her? Did Max survive the fire? Where’s La Spack? So many tantalizing unanswered questions.

The bad side? Plot holes. Remember the scene where the creatures refused to eat Charlotte? The Pack NEVER provided a concrete explanation for Charlotte’s immunity to the creatures. To make matters worse, the creatures devour Charlotte at the end after they made a WILLING choice to spare her life? Sorry, without an explanation, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

And I can’t forget about La Spack. Eh, why is she invincible? As the audience, we never see the gruesome shot of Charlotte murdering La Spack……but somehow she returns (without a scratch) to murder Chinaski? On top of that, during the final stand, one of the biker thugs shoots La Spack in one of her legs, but she just laughs it off like nothing happened?

So let me get this straight. She’s shot at point blank range with a SHOTGUN, and La Spack survives like nothing happened. And she takes another shot to one of her legs, and she laughs about it? Again, The Pack fails to provide a reason for Super La Spack, and it’s another head-scratcher I can’t ignore.

The plot holes are annoying and frustrating, but I still enjoyed The Pack. The cast is rock solid, and director Frank Richard deserves credit for creating a genuinely eerie and unsettling atmosphere for The Pack, especially the nighttime scenes. Richard delivers an appropriate amount of bloody gruesomeness, the suspenseful finale is full of nail-biting moments, and the fake out cliffhanger sparks an uncontrollable series of thought-provoking “What if?” questions.

Rating: 7/10

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1 comment:

  1. Charlotte asks Max if his old lady ever dies. He tells her that she never takes off of coat of mail. You can before La Spack gets shot in the leg you can see that she is wearing chain mail armor. Charlotte is not decapitated in the final scene, is is hanging down but one of her legs looks to have been cut off. This movie does leave me a little infuriated about how it ends, and just why the creatures won't eat her but then do?