When the zombie genre was born anew in the early 2000s, thanks to 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Zombieland, the only thing missing was the type of hardcore action-horror that could trump the mighty The Walking Dead in spiritual desolation, irredeemable characters, and pure balls-to-the-wall ass-kicking. Who would have thought that the French could provide such an uncompromising film with the fiendishly underrated The Horde?
A much beloved cop is murdered by a much hated drug-lord, and rather than settle for due process, his compatriots opt to engage in a blood-feud that would put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame. Their attempt to slaughter the man who saw to the cop’s untimely death is quickly thwarted when they underestimate their foes, but the whole situation must be reevaluated when the bodies of the recently dead return to life, forcing these would-be enemies to join forces if they want to survive a night in a run-down and abandoned apartment complex.
If this sounds a bit like Dredd mixed with Dawn of the Dead and Assault on Precinct 13, you’ve pretty much got The Horde figured out.
What works in The Horde pays major dividends; seemingly every character is expendable, and the audience is never more than a few minutes away from a body being torn apart by either bullets or the undead. The sheer visceral nature of the non-stop gore is enough to cause even the most jaded horror aficionado to turn their head in disgust, and though the characters rarely take a stab at earning the empathy necessary to engender sympathy for their demises, it quickly becomes apparent that The Horde serves the action first, leaving all other facets of the story damned. And that’s not a bad thing.
Another fascinating aspect of The Horde puts the protagonists in the decidedly precarious position of hating each other for different reasons. The two brothers at the story’s center are essentially Cain and Able, while two friends aiming for revenge despise each other because of the compromises they’re willing to make. There is no camaraderie in The Horde, damning the mere possibility of peaceable survival from the get-go and driving home the point that there is no catastrophe so severe as to dull the sweet taste of vengeance.
On the other hand, The Horde has at least a few elements that will irk well-worn zombie worshippers. For starters, the word ‘zombie’ is never invoked, and it takes the human characters far too long to understand that the dead will rise again. Once risen, the audience must watch the protagonists constantly pump round after round into the bodies of their assailants without heeding the obvious necessity for a head shot to end it all. Like many action films, they also seem never to want for ammunition, except, of course, when it’s convenient for a spent weapon to be jettisoned.
The Horde follows a jaunty narrative in which coherence is frequently cast aside for action scenes that wantonly serve the necessity for frayed alliances fed by the fear of death and assimilation. The important thing, however, is that these action scenes, which feature non-stop combat with the undead, are almost universally good, even if they occasionally dip into the Deadgirl realm of gutter depravity. The Horde could never match the schizophrenic thrills of a film like REC, which is another post-28 Days Later foreign zombie masterpiece, but skilled hand-to-hand combat with the undead is somewhat of a rarity in zombie films, and once the protagonists get their hands on some heavy weapons, the story is carried into a mythic area of wanton violence.
Does The Horde belong in the pantheon of excellent undead films? Decidedly no, but amidst a sea of near-comedies and character driven features that seek to exploit the collapse of society, it’s nice to get a film that simply exists to sate your bloodlust.
The Horde may be slightly more expensive than your average zombie film on DVD or Blu-ray, but it remains a vital component to any true collector’s assortment. Even better, both releases befit an international audience, giving stateside fans the option of either subtitles or dubbing to enhance the viewing experience.
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The zombie apocalypse is at hand! With the proliferation of books, films, video games and even TV shows in recent months--there is no escape from the marauding undead in contemporary entertainment. And now France is jumping into the fray with the ultra-violent "The Horde." Shot in the gritty style of a 70's era crime melodrama, "The Horde" is a relentless and brutal exercise in zombie mayhem.