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'The Horde' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

'The Horde' movie poster.
© IFC
Despite France's 21st century surge in horror movie notoriety, the country has yet to produce a renowned zombie film, unlike the US (Night of the Living Dead, etc.), Italy (Zombie) or the UK (Shaun of the Dead). The Horde hopes to remedy this deficiency with the sort of extreme attitude that has characterized French horror over the past decade.

The Plot

After a colleague is brutally slain, a rogue group of police officers decide late one night to raid the high-rise base of operations of the Nigerian gangster Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney). Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) is the voice of reason amongst the cops, preferring not to leave an indiscriminate bloodbath in the effort to get Ouessem.

However, it soon becomes apparent that blood is going to flow freely all through the night, as the building becomes surrounded by ravenous zombies. The gangsters and cops alike who are gunned down in the firefight quickly rise as the walking -- or rather, running -- dead. Now, sworn enemies must team up if any of them want to survive.

The End Result

L-R: Eriq Ebouaney, Doudou Masta and Jean-Pierre Martins in 'The Horde'.

L-R: Eriq Ebouaney, Doudou Masta and Jean-Pierre Martins in 'The Horde'.

Photo credit: B.RUN © Capture The Flag
Although French film has a reputation of being classy, arthouse fare, those of you who've seen horror movies like Inside, Martyrs and Frontier(s) or actioners like The Nest and District B13 know that they can be just as shallow, gratuitous and downright silly as anything that Hollywood spits out.

The Horde is a combination of these two French cinematic extremes: horror and action. There's nothing particularly original about it; it's filled with the sort of hardboiled cop-and-robber caricatures that we've seen in dozens of action movies and the sort of bickering protagonists and growling "fast" zombies we've seen plenty of times in modern zombie movies. The juxtaposition of the two, however, makes for an intriguing final product that's rarely dull.

That said, it's also rarely smart, rarely believable and rarely has a character we like. The writing is broad, with few nuances in plot or character development beyond the fact that no one is truly a "good guy". Despite a compelling setup, the plot never really goes anywhere, seemingly repeating the same scenes over and over again: shoot a bunch of zombies one way, find a dead end. Shoot a bunch of zombies another way, find another dead end.

Of course, plot and character development aren't the priorities for this type of movie. Where it earns its keep is in the action, which keeps things going at a steady pace. The action sequences are solidly entertaining -- particularly if you enjoy seeing zombies riddled with bullets (the protagonists never seem to figure out the whole "head shot" thing) -- but frankly could benefit from a more over-the-top John Woo-like flair to match the level of octane inherent in the story.

As it is, only one action set piece -- with Ouessem standing atop a car surrounded by "the horde" -- is truly spectacular. The rest are fine but lack originality, sort of like a first-person shooter video game. (No need to reload!) Perhaps to add some spark, directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher seem to speed up the film in certain sequences -- almost to an ill-advised Benny Hill sort of effect.

But in a year in which good zombie movies are few and far between, The Horde fits the bill -- even if horror fans don't appreciate the downplaying of the fright elements in favor of action. It has a sense of nihilism that's a boon to an apocalyptic film of this sort. Not everything shines (particularly if you're stuck with the English dubbed version), but there are visceral moments that will get any zombie fanboy's blood flowing…internally speaking.

The Skinny

A scene from 'The Horde'.

A scene from 'The Horde'.

Photo credit: B.RUN © Capture The Flag
  • Acting: C+ (A bit uneven, but it's hard to tell watching the dubbed version.)
  • Direction: C+ (Could be scarier; some action sequences are distractingly sped-up.)
  • Script: C- (Nice setup, but the plot spins its wheels.)
  • Gore/Effects: B (Good gore; so-so CGI.)
  • Overall: C+ (Should be more fun than it is, but still a worthwhile endeavor for zombie fans.)

The Horde is directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: August 11, 2010 (on demand); DVD release date TBD.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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