The Horde: Zombies Français, Quand Les Cuisses de Grenouilles Simplement ne Suffira Pas!

Deadly Movies Reviews | The Horde (2009)

The Horde certainly made some noises on the horror circuit last year with trailers that teased Gallic flair and visceral violence (an early released clip was reminiscent of the shoot-out in Predator, but with zombies on the receiving end rather than trees). In fact Deadly Movies listed it as one-to-watch for 2010. The film, directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, has a very, very, simple premise (no bad thing), a group of cops have to band together with a group of cop-killing drug dealers to fight off against a seemingly unrelenting ‘horde’ of zombies who, it would seem’ have come from nowhere to overrun a French tower block, and the entire city. The good guys, bad guys banding together narrative is certainly nothing new (a la Precinct Thirteen), neither is the unexplained zombie outbreak (a la almost every zombie flick since Night of the Living Dead). So what we have here is a very generic, very standard zombie narrative, and (deep breath Eurofiles) an American narrative at that. Indeed, this is an American zombie film wearing a beret and a string of garlic around its neck.

One Man Army Jean-Pierre Martins in 'The Horde' (2009)

However that need not be a criticism (although some film purists will certainly hang that mill-stone around its neck), cinema is allowed to cross boarders; American cinema is influenced by world cinema every year, it’s ok if the relationship goes the other way too. But as American as the narrative is, it’s the French element that stops The Horde from joining the ranks of the countless horrible direct to DVD British and American zombie films that have littered movie store shelves for the past decade. Importantly the directors manage to maintain a certain gritty aesthetic that’s notable across genres in French cinema, an aesthetic carried through the sets, costumes, acting, and importantly, the violence . The violence is a joy to watch in places, brutal and visceral, yet the directors manage to achieve this without over the top close-ups of injuries and broken bones. There’s a particular pleasure taken in blood squibs, with bullets flying into flesh at a startling rate. Sadly this gets the best of the filmmakers towards the end, and the squibs get replaced by the curse of modern horror, CGI blood. There’s also some lovely visual touches that border on the traditions of expressionism (the city burning up in the reflection of the tower black window panes is wonderful), sadly these are very few and far between.

Which leaves us with the main positive, the element of the film which rescues it.., The French cast. The casts faces, bodies, expressions, and delivery are all spot on. Their faces are gnarled and heavy-set, some of the heroes have podgy guts rather than six packs, and the French-Nigerians offer a refreshing alternative and richness to the standard zombie-movie bad guys. Jean-Pierre Martins’ hero detective (handlebar mustache and all) is perfect as a one-man-army, zombie wrecking ball, and Claude Perron is as tough as she is sexy in the female lead (surly taking the award for an all female human vs zombie one-on-one fist fight). The Horde may well be American horror in French clothing, but the actors and, a little Je ne sais quoi, lift its head up above the rest of the mindless corpses out there.

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