Sunday, September 12, 2010

On-Demand: Dahan/Rocher's THE HORDE is one of the better, 2nd-tier zombie flicks

If only THE HORDE, the 2009 French zombie-movie-in-the-guise-of-an-action-flick (or maybe it's the other way around) had appeared a few years ago, it would have created a very big stir. As it is, the film is surprisingly watchable and often a lot of fun -- if you've a taste for zombie mayhem.  It's the first film among many in this need-of-new-blood genre that follows, nearly to the letter, the rules of some of the best action flicks (The Nest, for one). Consequently, action trumps everything and the film moves speedily (& gorily) along.

At this point in time, however, there have been so many second-tier zombie movies -- from the recent On-Demand (and very so-so) Mutants to the would-be franchise of REC and its sequel -- that, as good in some ways as is The Horde, more than a whiff of been-there/seen-that still clings (with teeth, at left) to the goings-on. For first-tier zombies, you must go back to films as different as the 1943 I Walked With a Zombie (from Lewton and Tourneur), Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead and Robin Campillo's strikingly original, socio-political-economic They Came Back, from 2004.

Co-directors (and co-writers, with help from a few others) Yannick Dahan (above, left) and Benjamin Rocher (above, right), after a fast and somewhat desultory exposition/introduction, get right to it. As usual in most of these Zom-movies, the plague (or whatever has caused the zombie appearance) seems to have happened nearly over-night.  In this case, it's nearly over-minute. By the time our cop non-heroes reach the roof of the decrepit public-housing building in which the bad guys reside, everyone else in France seems to have turned zombie.  (To the movie's credit, the scene below and in the distance, as seen from that roof, is startling and creepy.)

Given the action-movie pedigree here, the characterization is better-than-average -- and acted a bit better, too, by the likes of Eric Ebouaney (shown at right and so good in last year's Disgrace and 35 Shots of Rum); the beefy, sexy
Jean-Pierre Martins; the necessary female Claude Perron (who, though rail-thin, seems to have the strength of ten men); and Yves Pignot, below, who is introduced halfway along and adds more fun and zest to the proceedings.

What makes the movie zing are its many action set-pieces within the framework of the event-filled, escape-from-the-zombies plot. One after another of these occurs, with breathless pacing and enough surprise to keep us on guard -- the best of which may be M. Martins atop an abandoned car, below, looking for all the world like a rock star in the midst of his adoring fans. Except they're zombies, and he's whacking 'em to smithereens.  (The version of The Horde being shown On-Demand, by the way, is dubbed -- and pretty badly. Fortunately, dialog is not the film's strong point, though heard in its original French with appropriate subtitles, the opening scenes might have seemed better drawn and made a bit more sense.)

I should also say a word or two about the sound design on this movie. It's terrifically chilling and effective: You can savor every last whomp, smash, crunch and slurp.

Available now through November 11 via IFC's Midnight "On-Demand" series, The Horde should prove fine, dumb fun for zombie aficionados everywhere. Click here to learn how to get that fun.

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