My notes on La Horde (2009)Though it has that grim, relentless, grimy hard bastard tone of many recent French crime and horror films, this isn’t that much more substantial an addition to the ever-expanding zombie apocalypse sub-genre than the average Resident Evil sequel. At the graveside of a flic lately tortured to death by hoodlums, the dead man’s unit – including his girlfriend Aurore (Claude Perron), best mate Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) and tagalong Tony (Antoine Oppenheim) — are persuaded by their hard man commander (Aurelien Recoing) to launch a revenge raid against the city-edge tower block where the cop-killer gang hole up. However, the cops botch their initial strike against brothers Ade (Eriq Ebouaney) and Bola (Doudou Masta) and Jimenez gets blasted – but the survivors of both factions are forced into an uneasy alliance when (of course) the dead rise as flesh-eating, infectious creatures. Most of the rest of the film is bloody zombie-killing inside the tower block, with only a few character touches. Comedy thug old bloke René (Yves Pignot) turns up alive, breaks out a machine gun and reminisces about the good old days in Dien Bien Phu as he guns down his former neighbours blithely. René bonds with Bola, who resents his take-charge brother, and cannily conniving gang-member Greco (Jo Prestia, the rapist from Irreversible) over the torment of a female zombie they strip naked and think about raping – which disgusts the more sensitive Ade; however, this moment of sobering empathy comes in the middle of a movie which otherwise gets off on zombie-slaughtering as much as any computer game franchise (Ouess gets up on a car with a machete and hacks away at the horde, slicing up dozens in bloody glee before he is taken down).
Aside from Ebouaney, who gives Ade depth without needing to do more than hint at a backstory, and Prestia, a rare human villain who is calculating enough to string along a sidekick because he senses he’ll need someone to eat when he goes zombie, no one here gets much to work with. Perron has the final girl role, though she’s a rotten person and a bad cop (and as responsible for her married lover’s death as his killers – she was nagging him by pretending to be pregnant); the cynical punchline overturns several of the racial, sexual and social attributes inherent in George Romero’s series as, after Aurore and Ade are the sole escapees from the building, she remembers why she came on this trip and shoots him in the brain. The zombies are no different from any other shambling horde, and the mechanics of their rising – supernatural or medical – are never even addressed; by now, characters in these films work out early that they are in a zombie apocalypse picture and just get on with it, which adds to the derivative, samey, we’ve-been-here-and-don’t-need-to-think-about-it-much effect of this particular late-comer to the party. Being miserable isn’t the same as being serious. Directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher; written by Yahan, Rocher, Arnaud Bordas and Stéphane Moïssakis, with input from ‘script consultant’ Nicolas Peufaillit.