Film: The Horde ***
Release Date: 20th September 2010
Running time: 90 mins
Director: Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher
Starring: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney, Aurelien Recoing, Doudou Masta
They’ve had nights, dawns and days, plagues in cities, lakes and lands from London to Outer Space. Zombies have been resurrected so many times over the years its difficult to get all that excited about The Horde, the debut feature by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher.
However, having picked up awards for best screenplay and best cinematography at the 2010 Fantasporto Film Festival, plus a pretty cool trailer, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this latest effort shows promise. But will it live up to its ‘Assault on Precinct 13 meets Dawn of the Dead’ billing – or is it another Flight of the Living Dead?
When a Police Detective is found murdered by a gang of barbaric thugs, four rogue cops take it upon themselves to exact revenge. But holed up in a tower-block, the gang sees it coming, overcoming the vigilantes and taking them prisoner.
Torturing their victims, they are unaware about the breakdown of society happening quite literally on their doorstep. As sirens and the sound of explosions fill the air outside, it isn’t long before those inside are introduced to the doom-laden din of terror - that of the zombie apocalypse.
Trapped, and each with a score to settle, those that still have a pulse must somehow join forces if they are to survive the onslaught…
Although the opening is bleak and gritty, first timers Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher lack the originality to make The Horde truly stand out – so much so, we are made aware of something dangerous lurking in the shadows only when the guard dog gets slaughtered, out of shot - its whimper echoing the viewer’s as we yearn for something fresh to chew on.
And it continues: a metal bar is conveniently left and found to wedge a door shut, two of the hunted decide to have fun with a corpse in a scene lacking humour, while another decides enough is enough and takes them all on by himself. For all the good on offer here (and there is plenty), soon enough something will come along and ruin what went before it.
A shame then, that the first zombie to appear is the toughest of the bunch. It’s also a shame that the dilapidated building, hinted at early on, is underused. The biggest gripe though is that our female protagonist lacks the personality of even the lowest ranking zombie witnessed during The Horde’s duration (the one that gets taken out by a fridge). Her only good moment arrives when she makes it abundantly clear that she trusts nobody, not even the guys she’s worked with for so long.
This is a huge problem, because during the opening ten minutes, it’s hard to feel sorry for the four vigilantes as their fragile false sense of togetherness is tested time and time again before finally being shattered by the gathering hordes of the living dead. Not only are the apparent villains of the piece, the gang, given more screen time, they’re also much more endearing.
Still, the script is loads of fun without being remotely original, and The Horde manages to escape joining the masses of zombie dross with a plot that never fails to ignite every so often. Loner ‘watchman’ Rene (Yves Pignot) really steals the day, his unpredictable personality topping anything the zombies manage to pull off, bringing with it some of the best scenes: an amputation stand-off and the well-scripted truce that follows.
Another satisfying performance is that of Aurelien Recoing, playing Jimenez – even if his one major fling, taking on two stiffs without the need of a weapon, sums up The Horde’s problem. As a zombie piece it lacks originality or the chills to warrant interest, yet as an action movie it supplies just as many thrills and surprises as many of those before it.
The two-on-one fight in a dingy corridor, although at first disorientating, soon becomes the greatest moment this film has to offer. Which, considering the trailer, is disappointing - the stand-off between Tony and a thousand zombies never works because, although the living dead aren’t exactly credible in the real world, this scene takes it further still and just isn’t believable, no matter how easy-going we are. Seriously, just bite his ankle…
The ending is pleasantly downbeat, even if one of the more appealing characters meets the worst fate. It would’ve worked better, and a lot more satisfying to boot, if the roles were reversed here, but then it’s probably in keeping with the slightly disappointing movie as a whole. Negativity aside, there’s enough good stuff going on that help disguise the fissures, but if you’re looking for scares or something fresh then you won’t find it here.
The grim visuals and giddy sense of claustrophobia compensate for a score drowned out by gunfire (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and as genuine entertainment it will easily hold your interest until after its finale thanks to neat twists and conflict by the bucketload.
Fast-paced and filled with friction, The Horde is definitely a cut above most standard zombie movies, yet it lacks the freshness and originality to challenge the cream of the crop. As an action movie it works better - think Red Dawn rather than Dawn of the Dead.