The Horde (aka La Horde) DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Momentum Pictures
Written by Arnaud Bordas and Yannick Dahan
Directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher
2010, Region 2, 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on September 20th, 2010
Claude Perron as Aurore
Jean-Pierre Martins as Ouessem
Eriq Ebouaney as Adewale
Aurélien Recoing as Jimenez
Doudou Masta as Bola
Antoine Oppenheim as Tony
Jo Prestia as Greco
Yves Pignot as René
The French invented the horror movie, you know. Yup, way back in 1896 George Méliès made a two-minute silent pantomime film called Le Manoir du Diable (The House of the Devil) and the genre was born. Without him, you might not be here now, reading this. Over the last 100 or so years France has been quietly bubbling away, producing a steady yet minimal stream of films that would sit neatly under the horror banner.
In the last decade they’ve made quite a name for themselves with films that have stepped outside the typically sanitized-for-mainstream-audiences remit. Films like Haute Tension, L’interieur, Ils, Mutants, and Sept Jours have delivered grimy gratuitousness that is reminiscent of the days of grindhouse and are far removed from Hollywood’s often sugar-coated sheen.
The Horde (La Horde) is not quite as powerful as what some are calling The New Wave of French Extremism, yet still packs a decent punch while delivering a crowd-pleasing action-horror flick. A small group of renegade police officers, led by Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), prepares to storm a residential tower-block in a run-down Parisian suburb. Their target is the ruthless, drug dealing gang that killed their friend and colleague. No trial or jury, retribution is all they plan to deliver.
Once inside the building, things don’t go quite as planned and the cops find themselves outmaneuvered, wounded and at the mercy of Adewale (Eric Ebouaney) and his brutal cohorts. Fortunately for Ouessem and his team, they aren’t the focus of attention for long as the building comes under siege from hordes of seemingly insane people who will stop at nothing to kill anything that moves. The two opposing factions face a choice; split up and die or work together for a chance at survival.
We’re never actually told why or how the epidemic started, nor whether the film’s antagonists are the dead that have returned to life. Standard zombie protocol would seem to apply though; they attack and eat their victims and anyone who is bitten will turn within a short space of time. In a way it’s no bad thing that there’s not a detailed explanation of how the plague started. There have been enough zombie films with paper-thin explanations for how zombies came about, why not dispense with that and get straight down to the action?
Directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher have created their very own Aliens, albeit with zombies instead of xenomorphs. The enclosed environment of the tower block, sustained threat of attack from all sides, constant battle action and an uneasy tension between the two groups is all reminiscent of James Cameron’s sci-fi sequel. Zombies are of the 28 Days Later running kind, rather than the shambling Romero type. They attack using speed and numbers although in the few scenes where lone zombies are encountered, they hesitate like cornered animals, gnashing their teeth in warning.
One of the biggest mysteries in The Horde is that no-one embraces the head-shot as the guaranteed stopper of zombie advance. Even though, in their first encounter with one recently-reanimated corpse, the group sees multiple body shots doing nothing. Red-hot chrome to the dome fixes the problem yet they don’t seem to carry that on throughout the film. Much ammo is wasted as shot after shot pounds spectacularly into zombie torsos, doing little but keep the squib technician in gainful employment. How I longed for the immortal “Shoot it in the head” line to be uttered (in French, obviously) but it never came. They might have fared better had they raised their aim a couple of feet.
Other than a blatant disregard for proven zombie dispatch methods, there’s really not a great deal to moan about in The Horde. CGI is reserved for shots that would otherwise eat a sizeable chunk of budget such as the view through a hole blown in the side of the tower block or the skyline illuminated by the burning carnage of Paris. The zombies and the kills all appear to be done with good old practical effects, the kind that Uncle Tom used to make.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a few French horror films recently, and they are definitely becoming a genre force to be reckoned with. The country that includes smoking, putrid cheese and adultery as its chief exports can now add kick-ass zombie movies to its shipping mandate.
Video and Audio:
The Horde is presented on this Region 2 PAL Disc in 2.35:1 widescreen with the original French language track in 5.1 surround. English subtitles accompany the foreign language track, which are clear and well translated. For those that find reading subtitles and watching a movie too much of a multitasking nightmare, the optional 5.1 English dub adds an unnecessary layer of ruination. Don't be a dipshit, go original language every time.
To bolster up the main feature the disc includes a behind the scenes featurette called La Bande á Badass (Badass Crew), which is a decent enough effort and in title alone sets the attitude for the film. It runs about 30 minutes and covers most aspects of the filming. There are also a selection of deleted scenes, storyboards and the obligatory trailer.
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