Subgenres within subgenres… Within the “nature gone wild/when animals attack” horror subgenre resides one that belongs exclusively to dogs. Preceded by Dogs (1976) comes The Pack (1977), with nearly identical descriptions (on IMDb, at least.) They’re both in the company of Dracula’s Dog (1977), Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978), and, into the 1980s, White Dog (1982), Dogs of Hell (1983) and Man’s Best Friend (1983.)
The Pack reminds me mostly of another movie, though, Cujo (also 1983, a big year for the sub-subgenre.) One reason is that there’s a scene in which a woman is attacked by a vicious dog while sitting in her car. Another reason is that the lead mongrel at times resembles the rabid St. Bernard from the Stephen King adaptation. (Useless trivia: 35 dogs were trained to portray the 15 dogs in the titular pack. Each one had a double.)
Most of the other dogs don’t look as gnarly as the leader of the pack. There are a variety of breeds, some downright cuddly. Since they’ve all been abandoned by their owners on Seal Island when their owners’ vacations ended, they’ve taken to attacking humans for sustenance. At least they’ve just now started doing that; there’s no indication that a body count began prior to the post-season arrival of banker Jim Dodge (Richard O’Brien) and his entourage.
Perhaps his family drama subconsciously triggered a canine uprising. On the other hand, having a son, Tommy (Paul Willson), who has no interest in the sexy young woman his dad brought on the trip to seduce him, doesn’t seem canine uprising worthy. We don’t know much about Dodge and his family other than the locals, Hardiman (Richard B. Shull) and Cobb (R.G. Armstrong), don’t seem to think much of them.
Let’s not focus on the whys. No explanation is needed except that the dogs are vicious and hungry. They conserve energy, though, by running in slow motion most of the time. Unfortunately, this made the movie feel like it was running in slow motion, and I became a little bored. I’m not sure what could have been done about this unless it was to beef-up the characters and their backstories so there was something entertaining between dog attacks.
The dog attacks are well-done and scary. My favorite is when the lead mongrel leaps through the window of the blind man’s cabin and others join it for the kill. Among their terrifying movements, a bloody hand reaches straight up into the air. (How sad. I have a favorite dog attack in a movie about abandoned dogs turning against their masters.) I didn’t catch any behind-the-scenes goofs with the dogs like I did with the rabbits in Night of the Lepus.
The Pack is perfectly fine, neither good nor bad. 24 hours after watching it, I struggle to put words to paper (or screen.) It’s like if I don’t record what I saw immediately, it will evaporate from my memory. Scanning my notes, I did catch something kind of funny that might better describe the weight of the film. Jerry’s (Joe Don Baker) son tells him that he thinks so-and-so is dead. Jerry asks why. The son replies, “Because he’s not breathing.”
Written by Robert Clouse
From the novel by David Fisher
Directed by Robert Clouse
Starring Joe Don Baker, Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull, R.G. Armstrong, Ned Wertimer, Bibi Besch
RT 95 min.
Released Nov. 20, 1977
Recorded on Nov. 5, 2020 (TCM)
Rating 5 Possessed Children (out of 10)
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