Monday, May 13, 2013

The Horde (France, 2009)

Going by this website here, the subtitled version of The Horde that we caught was the French theatrical version. Not that the missing footage really changed our visual experience all that much, other than for the fact that we initially totally missed out on the fact that the invading white dudes were rogue cops out for revenge, something we only discovered ten minutes or so into the film when a badge was finally pulled to show the drug-dealing thugs that they're cops. Indeed, due to the crappy tattoo on the forearm of the skin-headed bearded dude (who one initially assumes is the film's hero) that is so intentionally in the frame when he discovers the dead body of his bearded compatriot, we initially pegged the revenge-driven invaders as a group of French neo-Nazis or some other right-wing racist/fascist lowlife out for retribution for the death of some of their fellow scum. Indeed, considering the racial riots that had occurred in France not all that much earlier than the film's production, the set-up would have made sense. 
But such an obvious political statement is not made in The Horde, though the riots do undoubtedly simmer lightly below the film's real plot. And though racist scum teaming up with minority scum is perhaps a more interesting idea, The Horde instead features rogue cops out for revenge and violent gangsters who shoot just as quickly and can kick butt just as easily. Even then, the film quickly dumps the cops vs. robbers concept for visceral and gore and blood and bullets and zombies and action — served not in ounces, but in gallons. It is perhaps a shame that the film only has one mildly likeable character, but then, since the film at least doesn't shy from having the only truly logical possible ending of the situation as presented, The Horde also has no reason to meet mainstream expectations by having likeable heroes instead of totally fucked anti-heroes. And, hell, some of the anti-heroes are pretty damned cool — the Nigerian über-gangsta Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney of Hitman [2007 / trailer] and Thirst [2009 / trailer]), for example, is cooler than ice cubes on your girlfriend's cherry nipples. 
Still, they are alphatier assholes in this film, one and all, a fact underscored again and again in scenes ranging from a "take no prisoners" killing prior to the zombie outbreak to the later entertainment enjoyed by the senseless torture-as-play of a former neighbour turned zombie, and to the total lack of loyalty among "brothers" and the totally nihilistic ending that basically renders all activity up to that point as unnecessary. The world that The Horde agitates in, even before the zombies rise, is one of human animals, and though little of the world is shown prior to the big night, it is doubtful that the Paris of The Horde truly holds all that much more hope or beauty or anything nice than the hell on earth that breaks out unexpectedly and inexplicitly on the dark night of the narrative.
And out of the blue the outbreak does occur. The first clue is a growling watchdog that, just before the slum building gets locked down, runs out into the darkness only to squeal and become silent. By then the skin-headed bearded dude (Aurélien Recoing of Children's Play [2001 / trailer]) is almost already out of the picture and it looks as if all the cops are gonna die — but then some dead suddenly come back alive pissed as shit and attack. That, and the smoking and aflame cityscape outside the window, reveal that hell has come to earth. (The undead in this film need not be bitten to return, they need simply to die.) An uneasy truce is declared, not unanimously, and the cops and gangstas join forces to fight their way out of the building — never really explaining "to where", as going by what is outside there is no "where" to go to. From there on out, the blood and guts and body parts and bullets go flying and there are a number of nasty knock-down hand-to-hand combat scenes that put this film smack dab into the centre of Adrenalineville. 
The Horde is a bloody, take-no-prisoners film that thrills and entertains and never gives the viewer much time to think or get bored, though it does often give the viewer reason to flinch. For a low budget film, it is notably well made: well shot and edited, every image is framed so as not to waste any space and the art direction captures the filth and scuzziness of the location and people perfectly. Sometimes the filmmakers go a bit over the top (the big scene of a cop atop of a car shooting wildly amongst the encircling endless crowd of dead is less the highpoint that it should be than simply laughable) and sometimes they overdo the nastiness (the previously mentioned torture scene of the dead neighbour is really unpleasant), but the film on the whole exudes so much unbridled energy and testosterone and even anger that it simply bulldozes past anything and everything about which one might complain. It also doesn't really offer anything new to the zombie genre, other than the French language, but for that it still serves the old and familiar piping hot.
As well made as it is, The Horde is nevertheless not a pretty picture, to say the least — so leave the girls and the wimps at home, get together the few guys you still know who don't yet shave their pits and testicles, and pop this film into your DVD player. After that, about the only things left to do to have a real fun film night with dudes is to drink that beer and smoke those joints; and once the film is over, to burp and fart loudly and freely and nod in agreement with the film as you all start to complain how the bitches just can't be trusted...

1 comment:

Kev D. said...

Cookie cutter zombie stuff. Not the worst, but CERTAINLY not even close to the best. Nice review.

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