Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Horde

In an era full of dozens of the same standard zombie flick, it's hard for one film to stand out from all the rest. However, The Horde is a film that manages to do so without being too revolutionary or ground-breaking.
The Horde is a fairly unheard of, at least not here in the States, French zombie film centered around a group of cops that raid a run-down apartment building looking for the group of thugs that took out one of their own, only to be descended upon by the undead masses. Now both groups must work together to escape the horde.

At the end of the day, the film brings nothing new thematically to the table. The idea of two warring factions having to "put aside their differences" in order to survive has been done countless times, and the rest of the film follows a straight-forward zombie apocalypse movie. Even the technical aspects of the film are in keeping with typical horror and action films. However, the simple timing, execution and sheer violence of the film makes it one not to miss.

Step aside, Tom Savini; this is perhaps the most violent zombie film ever! A man bashing a zombie's skull into a cement pillar over 20 times shot with a sped-up camera, a man atop a car swinging wildly at a congregation of zombies with a machete, and an old geezer mowing down zombies with a machine gun. Not to mention more hand-to-hand combat between humans and zombies than this reviewer has ever seen in a film, which is quite strange to see. They establish fairly early on that only head shots will kill the zombies, yet we continually see them fighting zombies with their fists and feet. It's still violent, but a different type of violence than zombie films are used to producing.
The timing of all the jump scares is simply impeccable; not a single second or edit in the film is wasted, keeping the viewer tense and on-edge throughout the entire film. When a shotgun blast destroys a door and kills one of the cops, it's preceded by a slow section of silence while the cops try to sneak up to the door, and timed perfectly to deliver an exhilarating jolt; not to mention the jagged hole left in the door, about three-feet in diameter, later serves for a nice bit of menacing imagery.

Where other films have failed at making a zombie action flick, namely Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, this film succeeds by keeping the style of action flicks. Every main character is such an unlikeable asshole, the lighting is extremely dark and high contrast, the tempo and editing approach the speed of the Crank movies at times, and all the violence is of the style of an action, or even martial arts, film. Rather than trying to blend some action film elements into a zombie horror film, The Horde keeps all the elements of action films, and so the audience isn't left in limbo as to what genre of film it is; it's an action film!

The fact that every character is an asshole is both fun and predictable. It's fun because it keeps the tension high throughout the film, and predictable because the audience knows the characters will get pettily angry over the most trivial of things. Day of the Dead, Romero's third in his series, manages to pull off this trick masterfully without becoming predictable at all. Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, The Horde's directors, would have been well-suited to take some notes on how Romero managed the feat.

I also liked the ending of the film. Throughout the film there had been small little reminders as to why the cops had invaded the building in the first place. Without giving away too much of what the ending entails, the film manages to wrap up its basic story line between the cops and thugs in a simple, subtle and gripping way, while still leaving the matter of the zombie mob to be reckoned with; a very smart and astute way to conclude the film.

This film has a little in it for everyone. For the movie critic, there is skill and intelligence used in crafting this film (whether the horde of zombies is a metaphor for the proletariat can certainly be debated). But, for the balls-out action and horror fan, there's still plenty of violence and badassery to go around.

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