Venice 09: The Horde
Posted on Monday September 7, 2009, 09:48 by Damon Wise in Cannes Film Festival
In amongst all this Venice talk I must now give a quick plug to the organisers of the excellent Frightfest, who alerted me to one of their bigger hits this year, which, being very cool people, they managed to snag ahead of its debut here. Called The Horde, it is a very bloody, very exciting and very, very entertaining French horror movie that plays as an extremely effective blend of Escape From New York and 28 Weeks Later (yes, the second, better one). It's a shame I knew a bit about it going in, since it's one of those cool pulp movies that switches tack midway through. It starts like a gritty policier, with four dirty cops attending the funeral of one of their undercover colleagues and vowing to wreak a terrible revenge on the man's gangland murderers. After a brutal interrogation scene, they trace the gang to a deserted housing estate in the north of Paris, where they don balaclavas and creep in, armed to the teeth with guns and knives. Their plan goes horribly, violently wrong, but just as the gang are about to turn the tables, something bizarre and horrific happens. Outside, there's a strange crowd gathering, and inside... well, things get gruesome.
I wasn't sure about this film for a while, because the beginning is incredibly deadpan, and the acceleration into a nightmare scenario is rather fast to say the least. But once I'd settled in, I stopped caring. When it hits its stride, The Horde is a pulse-racing and thoroughly compelling addition to a suddenly very crowded genre. There's nothing especially original about it per se; it's really just a zombie flick, and the film wilfully sticks to the usual tropes, such as the friend who's been bitten but refuses to accept his fate, and the crazy war veteran in the basement who becomes an ally. It does, though, put some interesting twists in there. The tense pairing of mortal enemies in the face of a common danger gets an extra kick because the bad guys are two Nigerian brothers, driven into crime (it is hinted) by poverty and racism. There's also a very hefty dose of kick-ass in the action scenes, which are visceral and inventive: a gangster bare-knuckle boxing against two snarling zombies looks more like something out of Bronson than Zack Snyder's Day Of The Dead.
It's not for the fainthearted – in one scene, a man's face is smashed so repeatedly into a brick wall that there's eventually no more face left to smash – but it's just enough on the right side of comic book to curry favour with a more mainstream audience and cross over to bigger audiences. Interestingly, George A Romero will be here later in the week to present his latest zombie movie Survival Of The Dead, but it'll have to be pretty good to top The Horde. The directors are Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher. Remember their names, because it looks like they're going places...