My love for the walking dead has been severely tested in the last decade. Ever since I first saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller video as a child, I’ve been obsessed with zombies, an addiction which was fed solidly during the eighties as I discovered Romero’s classic (then) trilogy, The Living Dead films, Night Of The Creeps and more.
For years I always hoped there would be a resurgence in zombie movies, which, in turn, would prove my theory that it would be a cheap and easy way to make British films, gaining our film industry the attention that it was so lacking since the collapse of Hammer horror. However, when I finally got my wish, everything went slightly wrong.
Resident Evil came along and cashed in on the ongoing videogame franchise, yet never really felt like a zombie movie, as Paul W.S. Anderson spent most of his time deviating from the original premise and killing off cast members with anything but zombies (don’t get me started on the Cube ‘homage’). Mercifully, Shaun Of The Dead wasn’t too far behind and, despite its comedic outlook, managed to make an affectionate and decent zombie flick, proving that there was more mileage in the genre, while kick starting quite a few careers worldwide.
Unfortunately, in the six years since Shaun, it seems that every low budget filmmaker across the world decided to jump on the bandwagon, regardless of their affinity for the undead. Instead of the joyous support for the zombie renaissance I felt at the start, I now get quite irate at the weekly straight-to-DVD offerings that hit the shelves in my local supermarket and angrier still that any zombie film with an element of humour is immediately compared, or said to be inspired by, Shaun Of The Dead, as if there were simply no zombie movies ever made before it.
A couple of years back, I got quite excited by what I’d read about the French splatterfest that was Frontier(s) (reviewed here), until I actually watched it and found an interesting start that was washed away in clichéd nonsense. So, along came a chance to watch The Horde, another entry into France’s horror canon and described as featuring “some of the most awesome, edge-of-your-seat, close-combat human versus zombie beat-downs ever committed to film”. Which, with a fully open mind, turned out to be absolute rubbish.
The basic premise is that a group of unlikeable cops go out on a vigilante-style mission to avenge the death of a colleague, by confronting the unlikeable criminals responsible in their high rise apartment building. Then zombies attack and the two equally unlikeable groups must join forces to stay alive, without being aware that the audience couldn’t possibly root for any of the characters, thus making their entire cinematic adventure pointless and uninteresting.
The Horde‘s greatest crime, though, isn’t that it feels unoriginal, clichéd and stupid. It’s by managing the dual accomplishment of being both racist and sexist.
The main female protagonist spends most of the film being called “bitch”, or suffering accusations of being hormonal and crazy, but, of course, being stripped to a clingy vest in the process, so at least the filmmakers can get some form of voyeuristic pleasure out of her casting.
The most troubling scene from the film’s misogynistic viewpoint is one involving a female zombie, who’s been incapacitated and is surrounded by a few of the male characters as she crawls along the floor. As the men set about taunting the helpless zombie, the dialogue takes a turn for the worse when they suddenly start tormenting her/it and decide that they should “fuck the bitch”, seemingly not out of any hatred for the fact it’s a zombie, but out of a sickening loathing of women.
Thankfully, the scene doesn’t play out much further, but the damage is already done. The scene wasn’t ‘challenging’ or ‘controversial’, it was just outright nasty. It takes a strange lack of skill to make a zombie an object of absolute sympathy.
The film also decides to throw a crazy old man into the group, seen as the comedy relief amongst the other stern faces. Only this particularly light-hearted sidekick is disgustingly racist. He spends most of the film in a delusional state, calling the zombies “Chinks” and making racist comments throughout. Just try and imagine an awful cross between Benny Hill and Jim Davidson and you’re part way there.
The filmmakers then decide to add insult to injury by placing the lead criminal, Adewale (played by Eriq Ebouaney), in a scene which sees him wielding a large machete while hacking zombies to pieces and shouting, “I am a Nigerian!” over and over again.
The Horde also fails at its primary task of being a decent zombie film. I certainly have little patience when it comes to waiting for the obligatory ‘shoot them in the head’ exposition, but The Horde duly lets the characters discover the zombie Achilles heel and then promptly forget it, as they frustratingly waste endless bullets into anything but the head.
What could have been an interesting study into class war, or even an entertaining horror film, is instead a terrible mess. There is no humour to the overblown machismo or trite dialogue, which is all delivered po-faced, the editing employs the lazy, over used frame dropping technique and the relationships are ill informed and cold.
If you’re looking for a zombie fix, then go back to the eighties, or, if you want something more recent, watch better, low budget fare like Dance Of The Dead and avoid The Horde at all costs.