The Horde (2009)

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*. It looks like 28 Days Later in French, at least as far as the species of zombie and film style goes. These living dead have wheels, and the action sequences are so full of cuts they almost fall apart.
*. There’s also a shared political angle. In 28 Days Later it’s the chavs that have gotten out of control. Here it’s the canaille from the banlieues in revolt. The exteriors were even shot on location in Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 French riots got started.

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*. The colonies are also fighting back. René, the old man, is a Vietnam vet (or French Indochina, as it was then known). He considers the zombies to be “chinks” and compares the siege of the building to Dien Bien Phu. We also have gangsters from Abuja, capital of Nigeria, an identity Adewale seems quite passionate about. How they all manage to get along so well is hard to reckon.
*. I rate this one very high in the zombie canon, I think mainly because it actually has some interesting characters that we care about. The relationship between the two Nigerian brothers is particularly strong.
*. The dynamics within the cop “family,” however, are more complicated, and on a first viewing left me confused.

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*. As I understand it (and watching the extended funeral scene, included as a special feature on the DVD helps a bit in this regard), Aurore was fucking Rivoallan, who is the dead guy we see at the beginning and whose funeral the credits play over. She is pregnant with his child. I’m not sure what her relation is with Franck (the cop who Ade kills). She seems very upset when Franck is killed, but I take it that at the end she is avenging the murder of Rivoallan, not Franck. Why she has such a hate on for Ouessem I could never figure out.
*. Actually, I’m not sure why Ouessem is always being picked on. He is repeatedly denigrated as a wimp, despite behaving in a responsible if not overly heroic way throughout. He certainly has no need to redeem himself with his berserker self-sacrifice at the end.

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*. Why do they want to come down off the roof anyway? It seems to be a safe place to hide out. Or as safe as any.
*. The abuse of the schoolteacher zombie is hard to figure. Yes, everyone is on coke, and yes the script has already established that these characters are macho pigs, but it still strikes me as coming out of nowhere.
*. There are two great fight scenes: the kickboxer Jo Prestia taking on two of the undead at once, and Aurore beating hell out of a female zombie before dropping a fridge on it. I can’t think of many other zombie movies where you actually see this kind of intense hand-to-hand combat, but it turns out to be a lot of fun because basically the zombies are indestructible punching bags that won’t stay down.

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*. It does seem odd that no one twigs to the fact that they have to shoot the zombies in the head to kill them. René has figured out that it’s a virus that spreads from bites, but he doesn’t impart any information on how to actually kill those infected. The other survivors just seem to use firearms for their (temporary) stopping power.

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*. I like how René is raging throughout against growing old. He’s not going to die of a heart attack, that’s for sure!
*. I wonder when these semi-abandoned, feral apartment buildings became fashionable settings for action/horror films. They’re like the urban equivalent of the cabin in the woods. I’ve noted before how much The Raid looks like this movie, only without zombies. I was also reminded of the empty building in Ichi the Killer. Perhaps Candyman was the first to go here, with its haunted high-rise. Cronenberg’s They Came From Within is another example, but that’s a luxury apartment building and not a vertical ghetto.
*. The directors make an interesting comment in the “making of” featurette about not wanting to cast any pretty boys or hunky men, but instead wanting “striking faces.” They observe that this is a French trait that goes against the American grain. And they have a point.
*. How do we feel about the ending? Is Aurore just a bitch who has given up hope? Or is she exacting a just revenge? I take it that it’s a superfluous gesture anyway, as she’s about to be overrun.

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