Friday, July 15, 2011

Movie Review: La Horde

La Horde, a 2009 French zombie movie, starts out as a gritty revenge story. A group of the toughest-looking French cops, seeking to avenge the murder of one of their own, follows some gangsters, led by a couple of Nigerian badasses, inside a seedy apartment building. Things don't go according to plan and the cops get captured. The cops are about to be executed by the bad guys when Zombie Apocalypse begins. Now the cops and the gangsters need to work together to escape the building.

It's the premise of a survival horror video game, not a movie. These men (and woman) are not fragile characters. They're as tough as a maximum security convict's asshole. One of the vigilante cops even has a biker mustache and wears a wifebeater shirt. How many non-badass people do you think can wear a biker mustache AND a wifebeater shirt and not get arrested? Also, they begin their journey with guns. But the undead are much tougher than we've seen them in other movies. They're Zombie 2.0 so they run awfully fast and they're very strong.

Perhaps the most obvious evidence that video games inspired this movie is the sheer physicality of the characters when dealing with the reanimated. No one really figured out that zombies can only be put down by blowing its brains out so the characters, when cornered in any of the bajillion claustrophobic hallways and rooms, keep fighting the living dead by punching them, kicking them, and bludgeoning them with various objects.

The action is tight, slick, and bloodshed is generally realistic. The acting is superb. It's more than a decent zombie flick.

But there's nothing new to it.

George A. Romero's groundbreaking 1968 movie, Night of the Living Dead, which all but invented the genre, was a milestone for horror films. It's a subversive commentary on American consumerism, on the carnage of the Vietnam War, and on racial stereotyping. Later zombie movies would never have that much, uh... meat... in them. At the very least, it made American teenagers realize that horror movies can be genuinely terrifying, if not downright traumatizing. And it scared the bejeezus out of the then-conservative American media.

La Horde, while gorier and more violent than Night of the Living Dead, is a pale imitation of what made George A. Romero's movie great. Sure, it had a few scenes in it that cast a philosophical eye on the human condition, specifically: human beings being equally monstrous as zombies. But there's nothing there that hasn't been said before in other horror movies.

So, do I recommend it? Yes, if you're looking for a zombie fix. No, if you can't stop yourself from taking every movie seriously.

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