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The French horror film “The Horde” has a simple enough premise: four cops, looking to avenge the execution-style murder of a comrade, assault an abandoned apartment complex where a band of crooks led by two African brothers are currently holed up. Alas, the assault gets FUBAR almost immediately, as the crooks seem a lot smarter than the sorta good guys. (These cops are of the crooked variety, thus not entirely good guys.) Of course, this being a zombie film, cops vs. robbers is not the film’s main driving force: soon, a zombie outbreak threatens to take out both factions unless they work together to survive.
You’ve see the premise before, and certainly writers/directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, making their feature-film debut with “The Horde”, have nothing groundbreaking to offer. What they do bring to the table are solid ideas about what a movie pitting men with guns against the undead should look, feel, and sound like. It all makes for a very entertaining and rarely boring zombie movie, and the film shows some courage in representing the various characters as a mostly unsympathetic bunch. Do we really care if any of them gets out alive? Not really. Even the pregnant character doesn’t elicit much sympathy, and indeed, is probably the least likeable in the bunch. Which, if nothing else, is kinda brave on the part of Dahan and Rocher. Sure, anyone can make a movie where you root for the hero or heroine to survive, but it’s harder to maintain a movie with a bunch of irredeemable sociopaths you wouldn’t want to be trapped in a building with, much less try to brave the end of the world alongside.
So what’s left, then? Plenty of in-your-face gore, gruesome bloodletting, and loud gunplay. Lots and lots of those, which are very, very good things in a zombie movie, in case you were wondering. “The Horde” features a cast that you’ve probably never heard of unless you live in France, though IMDB.com says that every actor, including the crazy old man who thinks he’s still fighting the Vietnam War, all have extensive acting credits to their name. It helps that “The Horde” is not a low-budget backyard affair, and has plenty of production value to throw at the screen, as well as money to populate its cast with professionals. One of the biggest disadvantages for low-budget horror movies has always been an amateur cast; or in some cases, a mix of amateur and pros. “The Horde” doesn’t have that problem.
Quessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) fronts the film as the de facto leader of the sorta good guys, while Adewale (Eriq Ebounaey) is the calm, cool leader of the bad guys. The film’s main emphasis, though, is on Claude Perron’s Aurore, the only female in the group. The script by Dahan and Rocher offers up quite the rollercoaster ride for Aurore, which is surprising because she never felt like the film’s central figure for the first hour or so. Like all movies where two factions of polar opposites are forced into an alliance, there are interpersonal conflicts and oozing tension between the makeshift friendlies, leading to plenty of fireworks and random bursts of screaming. Yves Pignot, as the former Army veteran, lends the film an eccentric personality that keeps things interesting, not to mention breaking the monotony of screaming back and forth between the cops and crooks.
“The Horde’s” setting – the dilapidated apartment building where 95% of the film takes place – lends itself to the film’s apocalyptic storyline. As the world crumbles and bursts into massive fireballs around them, our survivors face their own hell in the apartment building. Dahan and Rocher keep the film moving at a nice pace, starting with an excellent, tight first 20 minutes, and capping things off with the final 20 minutes, which is really one big mad dash for survival as the unrelenting zombie hordes swarm for the kill. Unlike the survivors of other zombie apocalypse, such as those in Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Horde’s” apartment structure doesn’t exactly lend itself to long-term survival, forcing our cops and robbers to flee to the relative safety of … where? Your guess is probably as good as these poor bastard’s.
France’s “The Horde” is a fine antidote for anyone who is feeling tired of all the cutesy, wink-wink zombie movies out there. No offense to films like “Zombieland”, which was actually pretty good, but for every decent undead chuckle out there, it’s a good idea to balance it out with a hardcore, balls-to-the-wall movie like “The Horde”, where you couldn’t care less who lives or dies, but man, it sure is fun watching them try to make it to daylight with all their appendages intact. The film also marks an excellent debut for first-time writers/directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, and it will be interesting to follow their careers and where they go from here.
Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher (director) / Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher (screenplay)
CAST: Claude Perron … Aurore
Jean-Pierre Martins … Ouessem
Eriq Ebouaney … Adewale
Aurélien Recoing … Jimenez
Doudou Masta … Bola
Antoine Oppenheim … Tony
Yves Pignot … René