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October 2010

The Horde

cast: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, and Eriq Ebouaney

director: Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher

90 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
review by Gary McMahon

The Horde

I was rather pleased when I received The Horde (aka: La horde) to review. I had heard about the film, and it sounded like the kind of thing I would enjoy. Someone I knew saw it at a festival and there was a press blackout regarding even the film's title, so that made me interested in seeing what it was all about. A few other friends of mine whose opinions on such matters I trust had told me I would love it. Yes, the signs were good for this one: I thought I might have a winner on my hands.

Okay, so I'll start with the positive. The Horde is refreshingly bleak and takes itself seriously - something a lot of modern horror doesn't bother to do. It's well made and looks pretty great. The plot is a nice spin on John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 (itself an urban spin on Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo) and the whole thing is carried off capably, at times even skilfully.

The storyline involves a small group of policemen (and woman) carrying out a late-night raid on a tower block where a criminal mastermind is holed up. The cops aren't out for justice; they want revenge for the killing of a colleague. The lines between good guy and bad guy are nicely blurred, and everybody's a bit of a bastard (even the woman). Once the action starts, it becomes clear that a zombie virus is causing chaos in the city outside the tower block, and policemen and criminals are forced to join forces to survive.

The downside of the film comes with the tone, I think. The filmmakers have tried so hard to make The Horde unflinchingly bleak that at times it almost becomes funny. There's also a problem with emotional engagement: I watched the thing feeling utterly detached from the characters and their predicament. It's yet another in a long line of films were I can't even remember the names of the characters while I'm watching, never mind afterwards when it comes to writing a review. I even broke off halfway through to make a cup of tea, and didn't even bother to hit the pause button.

This does not serve the film well - it means that watching it is a bit like sitting through a violent cartoon, where you really don't give a shit what happens to anybody. Even the gore starts to get a bit boring, and you ache for some decent character development.

More than anything else I was reminded of Lamberto Bava's ropey old VHS gem Demons 2, where a party in a city centre tower block is invaded by the titular demons and a lot of the tenants are turned into zombies while the rest try to get out of the building. There's a whiff of the same madcap mayhem and even a similar black tough-guy character who talks in a growl.

I'd like to watch The Horde again, if only to see if a second viewing is more rewarding. Perhaps my expectations were raised too high after a recent bunch of rather brilliant French horror films (Martyrs, Frontiers, Inside), and I've dismissed this out of turn. I'm certainly willing to give the film another chance, and I'd urge any fans of horror or zombie films to give it at least one. The Horde is worth watching, but it just doesn't live up to the hype. Not for me, anyway.



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