When you've seen a lot of zombie movies, they all start to blend together. When you need your zombie fix, you have to find movies with something special to separate them from the pack. Sometimes it's a gimmick like zombie soldiers or zombies in outer space. Sometimes it's absurd amounts of gore and violence. And other times it's as simple as being in a different language. Now that horror movies are cheaper to make and widely distributed across the globe, there has been an influx in scary international movies. For today's review, we go to France where I have already reviewed one movie, Frontier(s). I really enjoyed that one so I was looking forward to seeing some French zombies chow down.
The Horde (also known as La Horda) is a 2009 French zombie movie starring Eriq Ebouraney (Lamumba, Transporter 3) as notorious drug dealer Adewale Markudi and Jean-Pierre Martins (Empire Of The Wolves, Felina And The Master Of Darkness) as policeman Ouesse. Following the murder of one of their fellow police officers, Ouesse, Aurore (Claude Perron, Amelie, Bernie), Jimenez, and Tony plan to avenge his death by killing his murders. The gang is lead by Adewale Markudi, a well-armed Nigerian who lives in a nearly abandoned high rise. As the group of policemen are about to raid Markudi's apartment, the buildings superintendent accidentally interrupts and Markudi gets the drop on them. The tie up one cop and Markudi's brother Bola (hip-hop artist Doudou Masta) shoots him multiple times. As they are preparing to execute Ouesse, Aurore and Tony, the dead cop awakens as a flesh-eating zombie, biting members from the gang. The gang shoot him multiple times, but he does not fall until he is finally shot in the head. Chaos reigns as an unexplained zombie plague spreads across France. The police and gang are forced to work together in order to escape the high rise and make it to safety. Along the way Aurore and Tony are separated from the group. Tony is bitten and Aurore eventually shoots him. An uneasy truce is formed between Ouesse and Markudi. The meet an old soldier named Rene (Yves Pignot) who has been fighting off zombies with an ax. Together, they raid the superintendent's apartment for weapons and begin the long descent to the ground. Will they be able to survive the zombies and each other?
"Who wants a piece of me? Oh, right. All of you. Crap."
The movie's main selling point is that it's filled with loads and loads of blood and gore. Blood is on the actors, on the floors, on the walls and everything else. If you like your zombie movies violent, then you'll be pleased. The Horde tends to rely more on computerized effects than traditional makeup and blood. Certain scenes look very good while others look blatantly fake. There is one very good scene where the audience can see the destruction of the city from the reflection in glass doors. It is subtle yet powerful. Later, they show direct shots of the city in flames and it looks too much like a green screen. Of course, you may not be too happy with how certain things in the movie play out. The characters learn fairly quickly that shooting a zombie in the head kills it. Despite this knowledge, they spend the rest of the movie shooting zombies everywhere but the head. They also learn that bites change people fairly quickly, but when one of Greco, one of the gang members, is bitten in the leg, they don't just shoot him. There are also multiple hand-to-hand fight scenes with zombies that, while looking good, doesn't seem like a smart idea. They are intent on surviving, but choose to ignore some very important facts.
For better or worse, the movie is very bleak. It's not the bleakness that bothers me so much as the predictability and pointlessness. You pretty much know how things are going to end and it's fairly disappointing. While it makes sense in the full context of the story, it also makes a lot of the story rather moot. There is some social commentary and the movie questions who really are the good guys and bad guys. The movie has great action and a few scenes worthy of a “best of” zombie clip show. The acting is good with Eriq Ebouraney putting in the best performance. I was happy that the movie was in French with subtitles rather than being dubbed. Dubbing rarely works and takes away from the quality of acting. There aren't a lot of cultural barriers so those not familiar with France and the French language shouldn't feel intimidated before watching.
The Horde could be considered a gorefest, though it's mostly just blood instead of guts. There is a lot of violence and good action scenes. The story is just OK, favoring action over substance. The basic premise of a police raid on an apartment reminds me of one of the opening scenes in the original Dawn Of The Dead. It's fairly obvious where things are going and the ending is disappointing, if expected. The acting and directing are good with some really enjoyable scenes spread throughout the film. The social commentary is passable, but it doesn't break any new ground or force the audience to change their way of thinking. The Horde is good if you're just looking for a zombie shoot-em-up filled with lots of blood and guns. If you need something deeper or unexpected, try elsewhere.