AKA THE HORDE, LEGION OF EVIL
Directed by Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocher
Written by Arnaud Bordas, Yannick Dahan, Stephane Moissakis, Nicholas Peufaillit, & Benjamin Rocher
Starring Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, & Eriq Ebouaney
This film has been on my short list of films to write about since I began this column. It’s not necessarily the end all/be all of zombie films, but it’s not as bad as some people have said in the Talkbacks either. More in the vein of a RESIDENT EVIL flick by way of SNATCH than anything else, LA HORDE is a loud, ballsy action horror film and it’s not really trying to be anything else. I think the critics of this film may have only one film in mind when they rag on this film. This isn’t high drama. No Oscars will be lifted high by the makers of this film. The story isn’t complex and the characters aren’t really fleshed out. What it is is a manly zombie film, where even the chicks walk like they’ve got a pair. I originally wanted to review this film with MUTANTS because it is the polar opposite of that film. Where that film gently takes its time fucking with your head by developing an intricate and melancholy relationship between two likable characters then putting them into the middle of a zombie plague, LA HORDE crashes through the door, bends your brain over a table, and goes to town on it. It’s a testosterone-fueled bull crashing through a china shop of delicate things like subtlety and motivation.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Though going into the film the box clearly indicates that this is a zombie film, I think the movie would have done better to hype up what makes this film somewhat unique. Up until about the fifteen minute mark, this is a revenge tale pitting a bunch of crooked cops against a bunch of gangsters. Had the film taken a bit more time in the “real world” setting, I think the sudden switch to zombie film would have been more powerful, but I think the makers of this film realized that the story they had wasn’t necessarily original and the actors weren’t really the best, so they decided to get right to the good stuff pretty quickly. Had the directors gone the FROM DUSK TILL DAWN route and completely switched genres mid-stream, I think it would have been a more powerful film. As it is, the cops vs. gangsters motif merely serves as another backdrop to hang a zombie story on. Sure there is the usual theme of the monsters really being the living in this film and the fact that the cops and crooks don’t trust each other is a theme played on throughout, but still it seems the attention to this film is focused on the kewl scenes and not so much on things like character and drama.
LA HORDE feels like a movie that was thought up around a number of cool moments. The much highlighted showdown with one of the tougher cops against a crowd of zombies atop a car is a fun scene that looks damn awesome. It’s a money shot and works well in the movie. I admit, I was cheering for the gritty bastard to somehow make it out alive as he unloaded rifle after rifle and pistol after pistol until the guns were on E, then whipped out his knife and slashed away at them. It was a damn fun action sequence. There are a few of these scenes in the film. A standoff in a dark alleyway of an abandoned parking building is another tense action sequence of note. They’re the kind of moments a bunch of dudes sitting around drinking beer cheer on and jump out of their chairs for. It’s appealing on a SPIKE TV level. But if you’re looking for horror that makes you think or scares that creep up your spine and linger, LA HORDE is not your movie.
As I said, most of the characters of this film are pretty one note. It’s as if they took the cast of LOCK, STOCK, & TWO SMOKING BARRELS and threw it into a zombie film. You could categorize most of the characters into three categories: tough gangster, tough cop, zombie. One of the exceptions is Eriq Ebouaney (who you might recognize from DePalma’s FEMME FATALE) who has a presence about him that oozes both intimidation and sympathy. Out of all of the actors he stood out, maybe because I’d seen him before, but also because his was the most interesting subplot of the film. As I said, most of the other actors do a decent job of being tough, with Jean-Pierre Martins (the aforementioned zombie car showdown tough guy) doing an especially good job of being tough despite the fact that he kind of looks like the Food Nazi from SEINFELD.
There are definitely worse zombie films out there. Believe me, I’ve seen them. If you like the RESIDENT EVIL films, LA HORDE is slightly better than those. It’s not on par with Romero’s films, but not all films have to be. Action and horror don’t always mix well, but with LA HORDE, at least you get a handful of cool action sequences, some pretty gnarly zombies, and a crew of actors who know how to act tough (but that’s OK, because the script doesn’t really ask them to do much else). I like films with a message or horror as a metaphor for this or that as much as the next guy, but there’s room in the pool for an action horror film that doesn’t try to hide what it is: an unapologetic in-your-face action film. That’s what LA HORDE is.