At the time of The Horde’s premiere in late 2009, the modern understanding of zombies – undead beings who crave human flesh and must have their brains destroyed in some capacity to stay dead – was a little over four decades old thanks to George A. Romero. With that being said, why do there continue to be zombie movies where the characters have zero clue about what they are and how to properly incapacitate them? You would think that somewhere in these universes, at least one zombie movie exists and at least one character happens to be in the know, unless zombie movies are just ignored for the writer’s sake.
Such stupidity is only the beginning for The Horde, which at the time was a highly anticipated addition to the New French Extremity movement coming out of the American Film Market. Amongst some of the other horror films associated with the movement, including Irreversible, High Tension and Martyrs, it stood out conceptually for reasons both good and bad. On the one hand, with zombies, it stood as a refreshing break from the graphic and disturbing torture other films seemed predicated on. On the other hand, without relying on being transcendently gross, it stood the risk of not being scary at all.
In this undead massacre, a group of cops try to avenge the capture of one of their colleagues by performing a rogue raid on the apartment bloc they know he’s being held hostage. Unfortunately, they have their hands full when the vicious gang responsible captures them and both parties are subjected to a swarm of zombies – notice the word I avoided using. Faced with such unenviable circumstances, the two sides realize that they must band together if they have any chance of getting out alive.
It’s perfectly fine if a zombie movie isn’t scary because a lot of them intentionally are not. But in place of fright, as a means of making up for that lack, most of these movies are action-packed, high-intensity gorefests loaded with tough dialogue, explosions of blood and guts and a dazzling use of weaponry. By the time The Horde reaches the point of reluctant reconciliation in the screenplay, it appears that the filmmakers will take the latter route, albeit with an additional über-masculine campiness. Yet still, the creators manage to screw up even those simplest of intentions and render the action intensely boring.
Given the setting of a large apartment building, the filmmakers picked a proper venue for tight, even claustrophobic action sequences as the protagonists make their way to ground level. Unfortunately, the script is highly populated with dead air; large pockets of space where no action occurs and scenes of shoehorned character development are merely moments of aimless, childish bickering. And as if these set-pieces being so few and far between wasn’t bad enough, the ones that do find their way into the mix are either generic examples of shoot-‘em-up violence or awkward living-on-dead fight scenes with simplistic choreography.
There’s plenty of gore to go around in these moments, but how does that excuse an hour and a half diversion that can only muster the strength to be exceptionally tiring? Not only that, how does that make us forgive and forget the characters who are morons, morally reprehensible people or both? Never in my life have I witnessed a collection of terrible characters in a zombie film that have made me root for the undead, because at least they had no choice in being antagonistic. Flat, horribly underdeveloped protagonists hurling around misogynistic language and homophobic and racist epithets does not exactly lead towards sympathy.
In spite of a couple of moments during the film’s finale that surprisingly exemplify good ideas, The Horde is worse than a waste of your time. Misguided in almost every sense, it brings shame to everything New French Extremity stood for. Movies that truly belonged were shocking and provocative even as the movement entered its dying days because the filmmakers found new, creative ways to shock and provoke, and even injected piercing social and political themes. The Horde is just generic, mind-numbing garbage antiquated in the worst possible way and unworthy of associating itself with names like Noe, Breillat, Aja, Gens and Laugier.
Chalk this up as another film on Netflix no one will miss when it is inevitably axed.