Sunday, February 20, 2011

Horror Film Review

The Horde (2009):  Zombie flick!  From France!  And yes, it's in French (deal with the subtitles).  Of all the horror films available on DVD, this is the one I've been anticipating (with bated breath, as it were) for a great many weeks.  Was it worth the wait?  Did it live up to my expectations, which I idiotically allowed to become grossly overinflated?  Oui and oui.  Viva la France!

Ahem.  It's a simple revenge premise.  A cop is murdered by a band of nefarious criminals led by two Nigerian brothers, Adewale and Bola (portrayed by Eriq Ebouaney and Doudou Masta, respectively).  The dead cop's friends decide to exact vengeance one night and sneak into the condemned apartment tower in which the bad guys have holed up.  The cops, led by Ouessem and Aurore (Jean-Pierre Martins and Claude Perron), screw up the entry, though, and are taken hostage.  It's during this tense period that they begin to hear strange sounds in the distance.  And then some dude tied up in the bathroom that the bad guys had previously killed comes back to life.  The sudden flurry of vicious, gritty action is breathtaking and sets the tone for the rest of the film. 

Cops and criminals flee to the roof and finally discover what those strange, distant sounds are.  The cityscape is alight with artillery detonations and numerous fires that generate massive columns of black smoke that reach up into the clouds.  The scene is supposed instill in you a sense of awe and it succeeds beautifully.  It reminded me of Iraq War footage when Baghdad was getting pounded but also of the footage of the oil field on fire.  The scope of their dilemma is brought home when they tear their eyes away from the horizon and look down and find hundreds of zombies massing around the tower.  They decide to join forces to escape the building and then go their separate ways afterwards.  Some get bitten, alliances shift, and then eventually we're left with Adewale, Ouessem, Aurore, and Rene (a tubby, eccentric old nutter played to the hilt by Yves Pignot) running through the basement with the horde hot on their heels. 

There are two scenes during this intense chase that cemented this film's place on my list of all-time great zombie flicks.  Ouessem's on the roof of a car fending off literally hundreds of zombies first with two pistols and then a machete.  Look at the movie poster.  That's the scene but without Aurore and Adewale (Adewale's the dude with the shotgun).  It's a jaw-dropping thing to watch.  Then there's Rene holding another horde of zombies at bay in a narrow corridor with a WWII-era, belt fed machine gun while Adewale and Aurore frantically try to open the locked door that leads outside.  Oh, my, for the marvelous carnage.  About the zombies themselves...they're fast, incredibly strong, and insanely ravenous.  Who could ask for more?


Acting:  First-rate throughout by all parties.  They play their parts with staggering conviction.  Ebouaney as Adewale and Perron as Claude are especially good. 
Story:  New take on Romero's original idea.  Disparate groups of folks thrown together trying to survive against an army of the undead.  Believe me, it still works. 
Direction:  Wonderfully chaotic.  You're on edge from frame one.  I found myself unconsciously leaning toward the screen every few minutes.  There are no wasted shots, and many of the shots are simply brilliant. 
Production Values:  I didn't know what to expect from a French film but needn't have worried.  Everything about it screams high-budget and professionalism. 
Gore/FX:  Excellent blood and some of the best zombie FX ever.  They did not skimp on the important stuff, that's for sure. 
Ending:  One of the most satisfying climaxes I've seen. 
Verdict:  Should you see The Horde?  Gee, let me think...YES!  A frenzied, frenetic, French fright-fest, The Horde is guaranteed to renew your faith in the zombie genre.  Mon Dieu!  I sure hope they make a sequel.

My Rating:  5 out of 5

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