La horde (2009)
Director: Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher
Cast: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney
Synopsis: An end of the world battle between gangsters, cops and zombies.
A lot of people describe French zombie movie La Horde as a cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and any Romero zombie pic you care to mention, but the film that kept coming to my mind as I watched was the Spanish found-footage horror REC, in which a disparate group of people find themselves barricaded in an apartment block with victims of some disease that induces zombie-like behaviour. The hook here is that people trapped in this French apartment block are warring cops and gangsters who must join together if they hope to escape from a growing horde of zombies.
There’s not a lot of exposition in La Horde. The film opens with a funeral at which we are introduced to police officer Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) and his spiky female colleague Aurore (Claude Perron) who, we learn, is pregnant with their murdered colleague’s baby. Ouessem and Aurore, together with a handful of other cops, decide to take the law into their own hands and execute the Nigerian drugs gang responsible for their comrade’s death. They launch a sneak raid on the largely deserted, rundown apartment block in one of Paris’s less salubrious quarters, but their plan comes unhinged when the building’s caretaker inadvertently alerts the gang to their presence.
Before you know it, our crack team of vigilante cops are on their knees and facing the wall of the apartment which is the hub of gangster Adewale’s (Eriq Ebouaney) operations. While Adewale’s something of a badass, he’s nothing compared to his volatile brother Bola (Doudou Masta) and vicious sidekick Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing), and it looks like the writing (and cop’s blood) is about to be written on the wall when a disturbance outside disrupts their execution.
It’s probably not unfair to say that La Horde adds nothing to what has become an overcrowded genre in the last few years. But then, to be fair, it’s difficult to see how anything new can be added to the mix other than attempting a genre mash-up like this. After all, what can you do with animated dead people with an insatiable thirst for human meat? Well, to be fair, a few of the characters here do briefly consider raping a crippled female zombie, which is something new, I suppose, but is perhaps more of an indication of the lengths a filmmaker has to go to come up with anything original in a zombie flick than a worthwhile comment on men under extreme pressure. I know that if I was trapped in an apartment block with a mob of bloodthirsty zombies the last thing on my mind would be getting off with a woman, even if it was Jessica Alba wearing a bikini and holding a tub of Haagen-Dasz, let alone a pissed-off zombie, no matter how perky her/its nipples might be.
But then, the surviving humans here aren’t the cross-section of society usually found in movies like this. They’re hardened criminals and tough cops, and there isn’t one likeable character amongst them, which makes it kind of hard to root for them. In fact, if anyone had to be trapped with zombies, these are the kind of people you’d hope it would be. Angry, violent people; psychopaths and sociopaths who care for nobody but themselves. Perhaps there’s some kind of message from the writers to be found in the choice of characters, but I don’t really believe they were thinking that deeply when they came up with the storyline.
The film does perhaps distinguish itself with the conflicts between the humans and the zombies. These zombies are of the 28 Days variety in that they can move pretty fast when they catch a whiff of human blood. They don’t have any superhuman strength, though, which means that any potential victims have a fighting chance of coming out on top if they’re handy with their fists and feet. So, we’re treated to some decent fights as the desperate humans slowly make their way down from the top floor of the apartment block in their attempt to escape. The fact that they’re cops and robbers also means that they’re packing quite a bit of artillery with which to defend themselves. And the caretaker just happens to be some kind of survivalist who has a small stockade of heavy-duty weaponry in his apartment. Which is an uncommon stroke of luck, when you think about it — so it’s best not to.
The zombie plague, the suddenness with which it affects the entire population of Paris, and the reason why our heroes are unaffected, are never explained. But then we’re not here for explanation, we’re here for the visceral thrill, which is provided with varying degrees of success at regular intervals. Most successful is the bravura scene in which one character, armed with just a couple of guns and a machete, stands atop a car to fight off a massive, baying crowd of unusually pink-fleshed zombies.
La Horde will satisfy undemanding hard-core fans of the genre, but most everybody else will feel as if they’ve seen it all before. And that ‘twist’ ending is as pointless as it is unlikely.