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'The Pack' reminds us how scary dogs can be

 'The Pack' reminds us how scary dogs can be
Wild dogs threaten an Australian rancher and his family in the frightening and electrifying “The Pack.” (Ian Routledge / Lightning Entertainment)

"When animals attack" horror pictures have plagued audiences with every kind of critter from bees to bunnies, but "The Pack" is one of the rare thrillers to recognize how scary dogs can be — because they're everywhere, they have sharp teeth and they know how to work together.

Jack Campbell stars as Adam Wilson, an Australian sheep-rancher running a struggling business in the middle of nowhere with his veterinarian wife, Carla (Anna Lise Phillips), and their two kids. When the Wilsons make the mistake of staying put on their property during a rash of cattle mutilations, they soon find themselves surrounded by wild, snarling canines, with no immediate hope of rescue.

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First-time director Nick Robertson and screenwriter Evan Randall Green keep the dialogue to a minimum, aiming for atmosphere. "The Pack" relies a lot on overhead drone shots and a low electronic hum on the soundtrack, creating an impression of the Aussie wilderness as someplace dark and mystical.

The more abstract, elemental approach gives the movie a distinctive look, at the expense of not-so-expendable qualities like character and storytelling. "The Pack" won't make anyone forget "Jaws" — or even "Cujo."

But while Robertson throws in too many cheap jump-scares, he mostly does well by Green's script, coaxing strong performances from the cast and making sure the viewers feel a sickly dread every time some creature is growling and scratching at the ranch-house door.

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'The Pack'

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

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