Sunday, April 24, 2011

6.2 LA HORDE (2009)

La Horde (2009)
Dir. Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher

Yes, it was a French double-feature last night, and both films were surprisingly good, even though they are very different beasts from start to finish.

La Horde tells the tale of a group of corrupt cops who, after the murder of one of their own, decide to take the law into their own hands and bring down the drug dealers responsible.  As bloodily and violently as possible.  Needless to say, things don't go as planned and they are instead captured by the Nigerian drug lord.  And then the dead rise, as they are wont to do.

This is another example of first-time feature film makers taking a swing and knocking it out of the park.  Well, that's a bit over-the-top.  It's not a home run, but it's a very nicely done film that lays good groundwork as a crime drama before jumping into the gruesome and apocalyptic zombie nightmare.

I don't really have a whole lot to say about this one, honestly.

It's another serious attempt, and while there is humor, it's pretty dark, gallows humor that almost entirely comes from the appearance of the crazy old bastard Rene (played with gusto by Yves Pignot) who keeps calling the zombies The Chinese and takes great joy in gunning them down with a machine gun.

The dramatic tension isn't just between the cops and the crooks, however.  The lead cop, Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), doesn't just blame the Nigerians for his buddy's murder.  He also blames the female cop, Aurore (Claude Perron), for getting in his head and making him sloppy.  On the crooks' side, younger brother Bola (Doudou Masta) is sick of being treated poorly by his older brother, the kingpin Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney), and finds himself siding with his friend, Greco (Jo Prestia) against his family.

The two groups have to work together if they're going to survive, of course.  And, as expected, things don't go quite as planned.  With hordes of zombies outside, they find themselves trapped in a condemned building that Adewale was using for his headquarters.  The ultimate goal is just to get to the basement, and find a way to escape.  However, it's not Aurore's ultimate goal.

And while none of it is really very original, the material is attacked with energy and believability.  The zombie attacks are frenetic and gory and there's almost none of the psychological and/or existential dread of Mutants.  This is more about the action and the violence than about the mind.  As such, it's a nice contrast.

As the film goes on, there's an escalation in the violence, and with the introduction of Rene, the film moves into an area that brings Dead Alive to mind.  In fact, Rene's ultimate demise is so outlandish that you have to laugh.  He's a tough old bastard and he goes out like the crazy coot he is.  In addition to Rene's battle scenes, there are also at least two other moments where characters Greco and Aurore go completely batshit on some zombies, beating them down in extended fight scenes.  It was pretty glorious.

Ouessem's final self-sacrifice so that Aurore and Adewale can escape is absurd and kind of silly, but I'll be damned if by that point the film makers haven't earned the scene.  Ouessem stands on top of a car with literally hundreds of zombies clamboring around him, reaching up toward him, shouting and wailing, while he constantly unloads round after round of bullets into the mass.  When he runs out of bullets, he breaks out the machete and goes down swinging.

Like I said, it was kind of silly and broke with the realism of the film, but it worked.  It was such a striking visual and such a bad-ass character moment that I loved it.  I was laughing and cheering him on.

The final moments with Aurore and Adewale, however, were more serious and bleak.  Oddly satisfying, too, in its own way.  I mean, what's a zombie apocalypse without a dark, hopeless ending?

For just wall to wall action and hundreds of zombies this one's hard to beat.  It doesn't break much new ground, but it was a helluva lot of fun to watch.

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