By C. Michael Forsyth
When you mention French cinema to me, I usually think of artsy, high-brow movies like “Jules and Jim” and “The 400 Blows.” So when a pal raved to me about a really cool French zombie flick he’d just seen, I pounced on it. After all, we’ve got Cowboys and Aliens, why not Frogs Vs. Zombies?
The movie, “La Horde,” has a promising premise. A band of rogue cops bent on avenging the murder of one of their comrades raid a decaying tenement outside Paris, to butcher a Nigerian drug lord and his gang. The tables turn and they quickly find themselves outmanned and outgunned, facing imminent slaughter. But their REAL troubles start when the recently dead mysteriously begin to resurrect and they are trapped in the building facing a massive horde of vicious, flesh-eating zombies. The criminals and cops reluctantly band together to fight their way out of the tenement.
I’ve got to say, I didn’t find the movie offered much that previous zombie-siege flicks like “Dawn of the Dead” didn’t do better.
I’m a simple man with simple needs in horror movies: create characters that I’ll care about and put them in jeopardy. Here, the big problem is that there are only two characters that are even marginally sympathetic: One, tough-as-nails cop Quessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) and (arguably) the gang leader Asadewale (powerfully played by Eriq Ebouaney), who at least shows some loyalty to his own brother.
The rest of the motley crew are so despicable you actively root for them to be killed. I don’t mean just that they’re crooks or baddasses. I mean totally despicable. For instance, when the “heroes” manage to pin down a rabid female zombie, they debate raping her (jokingly, I hope to God) and taunt her with a decapitated head, trying to force her to do something sick that…well, let’s just say it gives a whole new meaning to the term “French kiss”. Usually, you can at least count on a horror film’s leading lady to have some compassion, but lady cop Aurore is actually the most heartless of all.
In most zombie flicks, there’s one turkey you hope dies. In the granddaddy of them all, “Night of the Living Dead,” you had that selfish coward who argued that everyone should just hide in the basement and wait for help instead of trying to escape the farmhouse (which, in an ironic twist, turned out to be exactly right.) But here, you’re itching for almost every single person on screen to become zombie meat!
I’ve got to admit, the protagonists are a lot tougher than your usual zombie-apocalypse everyman. They punch, kick and shoot their way out of scenarios that would leave the average guy a morsel of flesh in between some hungry zombie’s teeth. In some scenes they prove more ruthless than the hyperkinetic “28 Days Later“-type zombies themselves. In that movie, you’ll recall, when mild-mannered Jim becomes as fierce as the rage-virus “infected,” it’s a thought-provoking climax. In “The Horde,” when the humans out-do the inhumans in the violence department, it’s just sickening.
There’s one minor point I found irritating. Even though the bickering cops and criminals quickly realize the only way to kill the zombies is by shooting them in the head, they insist on multiple chest shots. They keep blasting away indiscriminately, even after their seemingly limitless ammo finally starts to run out.
Frankly, there’s only one scene in the entire movie I really liked. That’s when gutsy cop Quessem stands on the roof of a car single-handedly duking it out with the biggest army of zombies you’ve ever seen in your life — like Davy Crockett at the Alamo — fending them off with guns, a machete and bare fists. Here’s one Frenchie who DOESN’T believe in surrender. It’s one of those moments where every male viewer is saying, “Yeah, that’s just what I’d do in that situation.”
Would you really, guys? Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out.
The writer of this review has a new horror book out, titled Hour of the Beast. The eBook is a measly $5. To check out HOUR OF THE BEAST, click HERE.