Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Film Review - 'The Horde'

For such a simple premise, zombies have proved to be the basis for a surprisingly long-lasting fad - one which, despite its inherent simplicity, has managed to provide a wide variety of stories (of, admittedly, wildly varying quality) in a wide variety of mediums. Or, perhaps, it could just as easily be that this very simplicity was the reason for its success? It is, after all, true that much of the success of the 'zombie' fad has centred around simply placing them in different contexts - different locations, different casts of characters, even different genres (ranging from goofy comedy to serious horror).

The Horde, for example, is a French horror film initially released back in 2009 - and it is, in many ways, a very conventional example of the 'zombie' genre. But, that fact alone shouldn't count either for or against it, of course - rather, as with all films, it should be judged on its own merits.

In order to avenge the death of a colleague, a group of Parisian police officers track down the group of criminals responsible to a run down old building where they have set themselves up. These officers aren't there as part of any official investigation - they are there for revenge, pure and simple, and they certainly aren't interested in actually arresting anyone.

Their plans are, however, spoiled by an overly enthusiastic security guard who, while very eager to help, manages to alert the gang of criminals to the officer's presence. A tense shoot-out is the result - and, the officers are captured. The gang of criminals clearly have the upper hand, now - and, the only decision to be made is what they should actually do with their captives.

Then, for reasons that are never really explained, there are zombies. A whole horde of them, in fact.

Suddenly, the building is surrounded - and, beyond that, any visible evidence seems to suggest that the entire city has been overrun. So, now, the police and the criminals find themselves forced to work together - required to put aside their differences if they have any hope of getting out alive.

The Horde certainly isn't the sort of depressing character study you get with something like The Walking Dead. It also isn't the odd zombie-based satire of George Romero's own original films. It isn't even a goofy comedy film, which works to poke fun at the entire concept. But, on the other hand, it also isn't the bland garbage of something like the Resident Evil series of films, either. It's really something in between.

It features a cast who manage to do a decent enough job of injecting the whole thing with a sense of grim realism, with the exception of a handful of cringe-worthy attempts do display genuine 'emotion'. Its cast of characters ('Good Cop', 'Crazy Cop', 'Female Cop', 'Criminal A', 'Criminal B', and the rest) may only really manage to range from bland and vaguely defined to outright unlikable - but, each is also played by an actor who seems willing enough to commit to doing the best they can with what they are given.

The zombie, themselves (since, obviously, you can't talk about a 'zombie' film without discussion the zombies), are of the sort that run rather than shamble - and, they seem to be significantly more aggressive than what I have seen in similar films. They quality of the make-up that went into creating each of them was also fairly impressive. The end result of all of this are creatures who, unlike with some other films, often seem to pose a genuine threat - which makes for some very tense moments in the film.

So, is The Horde a good film, then? Well, no - I wouldn't say so.

But, it is a film that manages to include a scene of a crazy old man with a machine-gun unloading on a corridor full of zombies. And, it includes another scene of a man standing on the roof of a car, hacking at the zombies trying to get to him with a machete.

It is a film that is clearly intended to appeal to a certain type of audience, is the point that I'm trying to make, here - one who happen to like their violence to be guilt-free, and without any sort of emotional investment getting in the way. There were many moments (the examples above, for instance - though, there were plenty of others) where I found myself laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all - and, the constant overblown macho posturing (even from the film's token female character) was often genuinely entertaining. I have no idea if this was the sort of reaction that the film-makers were aiming for, of course - but, I sincerely hope that it was.

I will admit, though, that I had to look the film up online to remind myself of any of the character's names - which might have seemed like a bad sign, if not for the fact that I also came to the conclusion that it didn't really matter. The simple fact of the matter is that my first reaction, once the end credits started to roll, was hysterical laughter - and, I was watching the film on my own, and sober. So, it had to be doing something right, at least.

I can't even imagine how much fun this film would be with a group of friends... late at night... after a few drinks. In the end, that is exactly the sort of film that The Horde seems to be, to me. Though, clearly, that also means that it's never going to be a film that appeals to everyone.

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