Jam-packed with gore, Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher breathe new life into the undead with their hybrid gangster/horror flick The Horde.
Blood is Thicker than Water by Laura Bennett
His mangled corpse filling the forebodingly apocalyptic opening scene, it is the cop Rivoallan whose death lights the blue touch paper at the start of The Horde. He even takes the title role in the 2007 prequel short by the same directors and featuring many of the same actors. Having promised his grieving widow that they would avenge their partner’s death at the hands of a vicious criminal gang, Rivoallan’s former partners go off the record to wreak their violent revenge on Markudi and his cronies. Pursuing the gang to their lair at the top of a non-descript banlieue HLM tower block their intentions are clear “We came here tonight for a bloodbath” utters one. Boy is he not wrong!
Unfortunately for the cops their clumsy ambush starts to unravel before it gets started, quickly morphing into a volley of insults and bullets. A definite sense of unease begins to mount after this initial frenzy. The gang seem, somewhat ironically, concerned that the cops have reinforcements outside and hesitate from swiftly despatching each and every one in cold blood. The tension continues to grow inexplicably. Screaming and roaring can be heard beyond the firmly locked door……
And then they come.
The door bursts open. An enormous bull-like, flesh-eating machine charges in, hell-bent on one thing and one thing only, quickly satisfying his hunger gurgling and chomping his way through several peripheral characters in graphic fashion. Unsure of what they are facing, each side is convinced the other is behind it. Thankfully quick on the draw, someone has the presence of mind to blow the creature’s head off, sending him crashing to the ground in a mess of spurting blood and torn flesh.
Zombie reinforcements are not far behind their scout; the sound of their approach can be heard in the corridor, their ranks swiftly swelled by the jerkily transforming victims of their predecessor. An ideal labyrinthine setting for such a life and death pursuit, the humans dash along the corridors and up and down the stairwells of the tower block before emerging into temporary respite on the roof.
Gasping for breath, relief is short-lived. From their lofty vantage point, slowly the scale of the un-dead onslaught dawns. Battles rage all around them, Paris burns on the horizon as tower blocks like their own stand as smouldering islands amidst an unrelenting sea of crazed zombies dashing to and fro below.
Faced with their apparent day of reckoning, it becomes clear that any chance of survival will require the two sides to work together, in an unexpected alliance against the unthinkable. This new one-for-all and all-for-one approach sits uneasily with some, most obviously Claude, the hard-faced lone female cop, keenest to exact revenge for the death of her adulterous boyfriend Rivoallan.
As the action of The Horde develops, the humans meet the zombie assault head on. Forced to take them on in close combat, fast paced action sequences and fist fights with the faceless un-dead are elaborately choreographed and strangely believable, if very messy.
The final showdown approaches as the ever-dwindling team raid the building’s caretaker’s stash of heavy duty weapons, stockpiled to protect him against local wannabe gangsters. Riven with internal divides some are left behind to an inevitable, albeit not meekly accepted fate, at the hands and teeth of the horde. Working together, the final two to escape from the building are Markudi himself and Claude, the grieving girlfriend who, it emerges, is carrying her deceased boyfriend’s child. With no compunction alliances are cast aside as she calmly takes the revenge on Markudi that she came for. As the final credits role the one who apparently got away contemplates her next move as the sound of those starving for blood encroaches.
A successful modern take on the good, old-fashioned blood and guts zombie horror, The Horde breaks new ground with its intricate one-on-one zombie encounters and genre fusion. At times though this leaves many questions unanswered and plot explanations lacking. A team of hardened gangsters and corrupt cops makes it difficult to side with the humans in the face of evil, and somehow the thriller-esque zombies themselves often seem more appealing. Surviving as the film’s heroine, Claude is not a likeable sort; does the audience really care if she and Rivoallan’s unborn child become the next meal?
Faintly underscored with social comment on the bleakness of Parisian suburban planning policies, and described by the directors as “an allegory of those left behind taking revenge on a society that forgot about them”, there is more to The Horde than gore and horror but enough for hardened zombie fans to sink their teeth greedily into.
The Horde is released in the UK on 17th September 2010