French Zombies eat more than snails: The Horde
A Review for Fan Girl Magazine
By J. Fountain.
Welcome to the wonderful world of head trauma. La Horde is a French zombie film, but don’t let that put you off. Gone of the days of the “Grapes Of Death” and Jess Franco’s other forays into horror: La Horde is the way forward.
Opening with the body of an undercover cop being angrilly surveyed by his boss, the Jeff Bridges-a-like Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing), the movie starts slowly…for about 5 minutes. We meet the rest of the police task force: Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), a moustachioed DeNiro impersonator; Aurore (Claude Perron) grim action chick with a secret pregnancy; and beardy nice-guy Tony (Antoine Oppenhiem). Together they raid the partially deserted tenement lair of Nigerian gangster Adewale Markudi (Eriq Ebouaney) and his hair-trigger head-case of a brother, Bola (Doudou Masta). For a crack team of super-cops, they screw this mission up in a big way, very quickly: Jimenez critically injured, after which he comes down with a terminal case of bulletitus dans la cranium, and the others captured.
Meanwhile, Adewale’s guards are noticing that all is not right in the wider world: the city beyond is lit by flames and flashes, and in Adewale’s bathroom, a recently executed police informant is alive…ish, and hungry for blood. Taking about 150 bullets in the body and limbs just seems to annoy him, and he sets about dismantling Adewale’s crew. With his teeth. When the victims begin to reanimate, the survivors decide to decamp, crooks and cops together. When they realise the city is ablaze, and the zombies are coming, Ouessem makes a deal with the devil, Adewale, to work togther to get out alive. From the start, you know this deal is never going to see the dawn, but you do extend some hope that human nature can be overcome for the greater good.
It’s not long, however, before Bola and 80’s throwback Greco (Jo Prestia) are shoving spanners into the works. While Aurore helps Tony, shot in the leg during Adewale’s interrogation of the cops, Ouess takes point as they begin to descend through the building. Suddenly the building rocks with a nearby explosion, and the horde sweep between the two groups, separating Aurore and Tony from the others. Greco, trapped on the wrong side of a fire-door vents his crazy martial-arts skills (stabbing zombies repeatedly with a flick-knife) before getting let back in. Ouess is left with the three crooks, goaded by Bola and threatened by Greco, while Adewale stays to the agreement. Cutting back to Aurore, we find her utilising every bit of equipment in a kitchen to batter a zombie-chick’s head. Once dispatched by the judicious use of white-goods (a refridgeratior), she returns to Tony who reveals he has been bitten. All this, and it’s only 40 minutes into the movie. Ouess and Adewale’s group meet crazed Vietnam veteran Rene (Yves Pignot), who refers to the zombies as chinks and gooks. Noticing Greco has also been bitten, Rene offers to help him out but cutting off the offending limb: this suggestion doesn’t go down well, and they decide to leave the problem for later…
The Horde is a fantastic film, full of action and some great characters. The two standout performances are Jo Prestia and Yves Pignot, both of whom bring a smile to the proceedings with their various kinds of crazy. Ouess, being the nominal hero, is fine, but although most of the movie is essentially asking us to see through his eyes, he doesn’t have much of a personality. We find that Adewale is more enticing as a leading man. The interplay between Aurore and Tony discussing the backstory of the character’s pregnancy is perhaps the most important moment of the film, and it is well played by both actors. Perron’s shift in character from slightly passive victim to grim survivor who will stop at nothing to save her unborn child is beautifully played and totally believable, and beside, she totally kicks zombie arse. The other great character moments are between Adewale and his brother Bola. The sibling rivalry is tense and layered, so you can feel the resentment on Bola’s behalf, but sympathise with Adewale’s brotherly love. It helps that Jo Prestia gives a lovely “Iago”-like performance as he twists Bola against his brother.
The only complaint is that the zombies seem to arrive too quickly: although staged for maximum effect (the horde at the base of the building, their shadows stretching into the dark; a line of dead moving along the road from the distance) and they are indeed great shots, it just seems too soon. The Horde seems to be homing in on this tenement only. But, when that is the only complaint, things can’t be too bad. The special effects are a mixture of practical and CGI; the practical works well, and the viscera is strewn around with abandon, while the CGI doesn’t quite work as well. You’ll notice the more blatant use of CGI, and it will jar slightly. However, you will forgive it, because they’ll be another crazy violent moment in a few seconds. There seems to be a subtext in the film, probably one about colonial guilt, but it is so subsumed by the gore and the gunfire, it ceases to really matter. The final moments of the movie are inevitable, but none the more shocking for that.
All in all, the movie screams out to be the first in a series, in the same vein as Romero’s work, because it is so gritty, so grim, and so full of zombie action, it would be a shame to leave this world of the Horde with a single movie. A great film, that will leave you wanting to bash people’s heads against a concrete pillar screaming “I Am Nigerian!” for a few days. And that’s not a bad thing.