La Horde – An underappreciated Zombie Film

They're coming, They're coming for us...

As some of you may know, I am gearing up for the CT Horrorfest.  For those of you who didn’t, well now you do.  One of the headliners is the one and only George A. Romero, and in preparation for meeting the “Godfather of the dead” I’ve decided to binge watch not just his zombie films, but many others as well.

A decision that left at least my eyes looking similar to the infected

A decision that left at least my eyes looking similar to the infected

One film that I almost overlooked was a 2009 French film “La Horde.”  At first I was convinced subtitles was the last thing my brain needed, which by now was so over-cooked even a Zombie would say it’s burnt.  But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the extra effort was worth the entertainment it yielded.  This movie is a diamond in the rough so to speak, easy to pass over without even a thought and yet it still has 5.9 stars on IMDB.  La Horde also won two Garner awards for Best Screenplay and Best Special Effects or Cinematography at Fantasporto Film Festival.  Not too shabby for any horror film really.  It was Co-written and directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher and first premiered in 2009 at the London Frightfest Film Festival.

Where you go when you want horror not rated PG-13

Where you go when you want horror not rated PG-13

There are just so many reasons this movie is awesome, and I wanted to share at least my thoughts on this film and who knows, maybe you will give it a watch after reading this.  For starters, this movie is more than just a zombie film.  It isn’t one that takes place after the Zombies dominate the landscape with their putrid armies, but rather one of my more preferred scenarios which is the beginning of the outbreak.  This is a special time when people are still busy being upset that they lost their phone, or stepped in a mud puddle, blissfully unaware that things are about to get so much worse.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

For the people in La Horde, the day-to-day activities we follow are that of a Drug lord and a band of vengeful cops who go rogue to avenge the death of their friend an co-worker who was killed by the Drug lord mentioned earlier.  So right out the gate this movie has a sub-plot of “Dirty”cops who are about to declare a four man war on an apartment complex which doubles as the Drug lords base of operations.  That right there is some punisher level revenge, but it isn’t revenge.  It’s punishment!  There was another film out there that had a similar premise involving outnumbered law enforcers that take on an entire building of villains.  What was it called again?

Oh, yeah... This guy.

Oh, yeah… This guy.

While these guys aren’t walking around with a gun that can be any gun they need, they are still armed to the teeth as they storm the building.  These guys aren’t very happy about what happened to their friend and yet when it comes time to take out the door guard, Ouessem, played by Jean-Pierre Martins suddenly remembers he is a cop and decides to just knock him out.  Jimenez, played by Aurélien Recoing doesn’t agree with just knocking the guard out and so he shanks him, telling Ouessem they must “Play dirty” if they want to do what they came to do.

"The way I enforce the law isn't the only thing that's dirty."

The way I enforce the law isn’t the only thing that’s dirty.”

Things go belly up pretty fast for the team when the building Super shows up with a shot-gun, he means well but his meddling gets poor Jimenez a bullet in the neck.  What’s worse is the plastic explosives Jimenez was setting also takes a bullet.  Our once vigilante swat team is now reduced to a cluster of people horribly outgunned and outclassed.  They are taken hostage and interrogated by the Drug Lord Adewale Markudi, played by Eriq Ebouaney, along with his brother Bola Markudi played by Doudou Masta, Doudou is also a hip-hop artist and so this movie adapts to being one of “Those movies where a musician thinks they’re an actor” but it isn’t like that at all.  Or at least Doudou’s acting is decent enough that you don’t notice that aspect of the film, at least not negatively.

A rapper who can act.

A rapper who can act.

After it is revealed that they are the only cops on site and that they were there for a revenge killing Adewale orders for all the cops to be put down, putting a bullet into refuses-to-die Jimenez himself.  Aurore played by Claude Perron is seen cradling the now dead Jimenez as they prepare to die.  Suddenly they are interrupted by bizarre beastly sounds and beating on the bathroom door.  The bathroom where a person was gunned down inside earlier.  The first onscreen zombie pops out, eats a guy and the entire gang empty their bullets into its torso, not one of them thinking to aim for the head.

apparently not a thing in their universe

apparently not a thing in their universe

After our zombie buddy bites a good handful of people, Adewale decides to blow its head off with a shot-gun.  Unfortunately like the saying goes “Too little, too late” bodies are rising at an accelerated rate, and what’s worse is these aren’t your slow-moving Night of the living dead zombies, these are more in kind with one of my favorite Zombie game franchises, Left4Dead.  For anyone who isn’t aware of the series, they are First Person Shooters that allow a player to face off in a fight to survive against the zombie hordes with friends or alone.  One unique thing was at the time playing as the zombie wasn’t really a thing.  Most games only had you killing zombies who were only zombies as a punishment for their horrible war crimes.  In Left4Dead you could face off against other players while behind the driver seat of a special infected zombie.  The other thing it had most others didn’t was zombies who ran, climbed and on occasion rode around on the player’s back.

"This movie reminds me of this game is what I'm saying"

This movie reminds me of this series is what I’m saying.

An alliance is made from the remnants of the gang and the cops and they manage to escape for the time being.  They resolve to get out of the building together and then go their separate ways.  Almost immediately the group becomes separated and a couple of guys get bitten and we are introduced to a crazy homemade bomb making war vet named René, played by Yves Pignot.  This guy is far from stable as he is clearly seen beating a corpse that has stopped getting back up, and by how he rationalizes what the zombies are by referring to them as “Chinks.”

We here at The Blood-Shed do not condone racism of any kind.

We here at The Blood-Shed do not condone racism of any kind.

His chain of logic would suggest he may have slipped into a war flashback and only partially came back out.  While René tries to convince the group that their buddy who got bit in the leg, needs to amputate it to avoid becoming one of them, we see a cutscene to Aurore who has to face some serious mortality and soul-searching decisions in regards to another member of the group who has become infected.  Cut back to René and friends who get a television broadcast advising them to an evacuation point.  They proceed to argue about the best way to go before snorting some rails of cocaine.  Immediately after we see René charge out into the hallway while shouting “Time for your suppository, you old F***s!”  I’m not sure why this line is so great but seriously it is.

Because it's this guy, that's why

Because it’s this guy, that’s why.

Shortly after he barrels into an empty hallway, they encounter a female zombie, naturally Bola, René and José, played by Jo Prestia, wound the zombie then proceed to torment it, taunting it and even going so far as to threaten raping her.  This right here is a darker side of humanity, but it exists and I give this movie props for exploring, even if briefly the darker side of how humans act when in power with no threat of repercussion.  The scene is put to an end by Adewale, who tolerated as much as he could before giving a bullet to the undead girl’s brain.  Adewale lectures Bola and shames everyone else before walking away to do something productive.  Bola, in a grab for power takes the group’s gear and leaves them for dead, forcing them to run to the Super’s apartment for his weapon stash.

Because, reeally you can't deal with this without a gun.

Because, really you can’t deal with this without a gun.

The zombies finally break in and swarm the place, forcing the group to run as well.  Which is where Adewale finds Bola being eaten by José and has a total melt down.  After unloading a shotgun into him he smashes his face off of a parking pillar until it’s flat. His range of anger, sadness, hatred and remorse are done remarkably well and what is one of my favorite scenes next to Ouessem’s last stand which isn’t long after Adewale snaps.

"What's up, Paris!"

What’s up, Paris!”

Ouessem’s last stand is the only reason the other survivors are able to escape.  One thing that was odd throughout the movie was that Ouessem never really “Gave in to his Dark Side.”  He refused to kill people he didn’t have to, turned down free cocaine, and kept his word about not killing Adewale once they escaped.  The closest he comes to being corrupted is when he turns a blind eye to the torture of the female zombie that Adewale put an end to earlier.  Ouessem is the purist character right down to sacrificing himself so the others could escape.

You didn't think he was done when he ran out of bullets did you?

You didn’t think he was done when he ran out of bullets did you?

Soon after the group discovers the “Zombie Pantry” where the dead have been dragging the corpses not reanimated to.  They reason it’s for food storage, but not long after the pile starts to stand up, could this be a “Birthing Nest” for them?  Is that too high on the intelligence scale for them?  Who knows, but I’d like to think those loveable zombie scamps are more clever than we think.  The group ends up backed against a door down a very narrow hallway.  René, armed with a mini-gun provides cover fire for Adewale and Aurore while they work to get the door open.

"Say hello to my little friend!"

Say hello to my little friend!”

Though it becomes obvious that this is René’s last stand.  Maybe he was one punch short of a free sundae on his Man-Card or maybe it is as he explains that he “Isn’t going to die of a heart attack” but either way he fires until he runs out of bullets and then pulls the pin on a grenade.  Once the zombies dog-pile onto him he shoves the grenade in one of their mouths.

"I'll show you hardcore!"

“I’ll show you hardcore!”

Remember how I mentioned that everyone except Ouessem gave into theirDark Side?  Yeah, about that.  Aurore and Adewell make it out to “Safety” but unlike Ouessem, Aurore doesn’t keep her word.  Despite being pregnant, and otherwise alone she decides to “Do what I came to do” and puts a bullet executioner style right into the back of the battle hardened Adewale’s head.  The screen focuses on her bloodied face as the sound of the Horde can be heard getting steadily louder.

"Screw rational thinking, I've got a baby to protect."

Screw rational thinking, I’ve got a baby to protect.”

This movie is a great flick, because despite the zombies being the real stars of the show, the human condition, break-down of society and authority are where the entertainment is at.  Good people doing bad things, bad people doing good things,  and everything being flipped onto its side is the real threat and danger.  How would you conduct yourself in a high-pressure situation, would you do any better?  Fun questions to bat around with your friends while watching movies like this, but La Horde answers them in some of the realist and most disturbed ways.  Showing more than it seems, the message is that people never change, they are selfish and you cannot trust each other because we might just kill you if it benefits us.  I’ll just let that sink in.

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