A posse of crooked cops, malevolent gangsters and a horde of walking dead are the centre point of this gruesome, tight, action packed, claustrophobic tale of retribution and escape. Penned like animals, on the top floor of a deserted high-rise block, these two opposing gangs find that they are not alone in the lair of bloodthirsty corridors of death. Joining forces to survive, they must reach ground level together or perish. Loaded with a bad ass attitude, guns, axes and extremely creative hand-to-hand combat sequences that project the fears and paranoia that are the fighting forces behind the need to survive, when caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Over the last five to seven years France has really stepped up to the plate. While Hollywood was (and still is) having it’s love affair with remakes, a slew of French directors were out there on the front lines making original, scary, and gory horror films … and they were GOOD (and in some cases, great). I’ve been waiting for THE HORDE for about a year now, give or take a few months. Not only is it another French genre movie, but it’s also a f*cking zombie flick!! I couldn’t wait to see what those Frogs did with a zombie flick. So the other night I was looking through my MOD (on Time Warner) and froze like a deer in headlights when I saw that THE HORDE was being shown on the IFC category. With trembling hands I ordered the film and sat back, ready to experience the film I was waiting to see for over a year. And the result is … well, let’s just back up one moment.
The film begins with a funeral where a cop is being buried (yes; he stays dead). The cop, who was a part of some kind of rogue cop clique (it’s never really elaborated on) was killed by some pretty nasty Nigerian gangsters. So in a true “f*ck it” attitude the rest of the rogue cops put on their ski masks, load up with enough fire power to take out a small Third-World nation, and set out for revenge. The Nigerians, led by Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney), are holed up in a condemned apartment building with only a few other squatters living in the building. It’s a pretty simple set-up that nicely isolates our core cast in a believable way. The rogue cops’ raid goes horribly wrong and they’re captured by the gangsters. But just as things are about to get bloody for the cops, an unexpected and violent zombie outbreak occurs. Now in a true ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 vein, the remaining cops and gangsters must team up if they want to survive the horde’s of vicious zombies. Like I said; pretty basic premise. So how was it executed?
The acting in THE HORDE was solid all around. As the dust settles after the first zombie encounter (more on this in a second), the story focuses on Aurore (Caude Perron), a really badass chick who doesn’t like it one bit that she needs to work with the very gangsters she came to assassinate; Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), another cop who makes the decision to work with the gangsters; and the above-mentioned Adewale, the leader of the gangsters. All three of these actors put in really strong performances (especially Adewale) and carry the film nicely. What’s great is that from my perspective the entire cast are “unknowns”. They very well could be some of France’s best known actors, but I’ve never seen any of them before. I like this because you have no idea who’s gonna be killed from one scene to the next. So all around we get a strong cast that helps this flick move along nicely …
… and believe me; this film moves FAST!! The zombie outbreak is never explained and it’s origin is never even hinted at (which I appreciated). One minute the cops are lined up against a wall about to get executed by the Nigerians and the next moment the cops are already dead are getting up and attacking the living. I love the zombies here too; they’re like zombies on steroids and make the infected from the 28 DAYS LATER flicks look like harmless puppies!! The infection takes only minutes to reanimate a dead body and when they reanimate they are f*cking pissed, f*cking strong, f*cking fast, and f*cking hungry. Like I mention above, the story is pretty simple and THE HORDE really doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but it does give us a kick ass zombie flick that’ll have you glued to the screen. We also get some pretty cool shots of the survivors standing on the roof of the building looking at (I’m assuming) Paris off in the distance. It’s pretty obvious that Paris is experiencing the same zombie apocalypse as we see smoking billowing from various building and hear faint gun shots off in the distance. Great scenes.
But all is not perfect with THE HORDE. The zombies are actually a little too strong and most of them stand up to really violent beatings. Notice I said “beatings”; we get many scenes of humans fist fighting the zombies and smashing their heads into walls, through windows, on cement floors, and even into refrigerators. The zombies are a little too resilient and seem to have REALLY strong skulls. But what really pissed off me and my wife was that even after the survivors realize you need to shoot the zombies in the heads to kill them, they STILL aimed at their bodies every time they encountered them. Every time. It got really annoying. By now everyone knows that to kill a zombie you need to destroy the brain. But out survivors waste thousands of rounds of ammo shooting the zombies in the body and extremities. I guess they had an unlimited stash of ammo and weren’t worried about running out of rounds!! I can’t stress how annoying this got watching them shoot the zombies in the chest 40 times and look surprised that they didn’t die.
But even as pissed off as this made me I still really enjoyed this film. It has a super fast pace, an ass kicking female character (this IS a French flick after all), tons of zombies in good make up, and lots of graphic violence. Unfortunately most of the f/x are CGI and that pulled me out of the “moment” a few times (sorry guys, but no mater how advanced you think CGI blood has gotten it still looks f*cking fake to me). But perhaps the best scene in the film is when Ouessem is fighting off hundreds and hundreds of vicious zombies. He’s standing on the top of a parked car surrounded by the zombies fighting for his f*cking life. It’s a great scene that gets your heart pumping.
Ultimately I was a little let down with THE HORDE. But I think that’s all my fault; I was expecting THE HORDE to re-define and take the zombie genre to new heights just like INSIDE and MARTYRS had done. THE HORDE isn’t gonna re-define the zombie genre but it shows that there’s still a lot of life (a-hem) left in it. This is a really fun zombie flick that delivers. And just wait until the ending!! I recommend this one.
Directors: Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher (and writers; Dahan was an uncredited zombie & Rocher was an uncredited decapitated head)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 4.5 out of 5 brains