Monday, 10 October 2016

The Horde (2009)

A French policeman is found murdered.  His colleagues believe this to be the work of a Nigerian gangster named Adewale Markudi.  They plot to infiltrate the near-derelict apartment building where Markudi has his base and execute him.  In fact, most of the cops seem pretty intent on executing every member of the gang: only one of their number wants to limit the bloodshed to the boss alone.

The cops' plans pretty quickly go awry.  This is in part because Marduki's people are more alert than they expected, but it's mostly because a zombie armageddon starts while they are still inside the building.  Now these erstwhile enemies must band together if they are to have any hope of survival.

I've seen La Horde (as it is known in the original French) described as "the Die Hard of zombie films", but really the only thing they share is that they're set in high rises.  I think that comparison with Assault on Precinct 13 is more accurate.  Both films are based around the idea of cops and crooks teaming up to face an implacable third enemy, and both make considerable mileage of the mistrust and antagonism that inevitably arises in such a reluctant alliance.  The Horde is a rather more pessimistic film than John Carpenter's 1976 offering though: at least in that film the cops are basically decent people caught in a terrible situation.  It's bad guys and good guys teaming up, whereas this film is more a case of bad guys and worse guys.  The cops were in the tower to commit murder, after all.

The Horde is a solid zombie action film.  It has a decent cast, a convincing look, and well-staged fight sequences.  I'm dubious about the sheer amount of firepower that's apparently stocked in the apartment block, but I'm willing to accept it for the purposes of the tale.  My only real complaint is the absence of any sympathetic characters.  When the most moral person on screen is the guy who "only" wanted to commit one murder, you're setting a very low bar.  I do think that the awfulness of the characters is quite intentional, though.  There are definitely comparisons being drawn between the unthinking, instinctual violence of the undead and the quite intentional, vindictive violence of the humans.

I'll also add a specific content warning: there's a scene where the group incapacitate a female zombie that then goes in a very ugly direction.  In the scene's defence, it's not portrayed as being anything but foul, and it stops short of turning ugly talk into ugly action.  But it's still very unpleasant and may be a deal-breaker for some viewers.

If you're a zombie fan, and neither that content warning nor the film's nihilistic depiction of human beings are off-putting to you, then The Horde is worth your time.

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