Wednesday, 19 January 2011

La Horde; not my best idea for an evening's entertainment

Zombies seem to be this year's vampires, or something. They're so omnipresent they've finally got their own TV show, but even more than that, the French film industry has finally given them some attention. For some reason, the French film industry still doesn't think that there's quite enough to zombies to give them the whole movie, so La Horde mixes in a bunch of other stuff.

I don't know if the French movie guys do elevator pitches, partly because what French cinema I've seen leaves me wondering if France has any working elevators, but if they did, I imagine the pitch for La Horde would have been "It's 28 Days Later meets Assault on Precinct 13". Someone should have pointed out that these two movies have never met because when you try to get that much awesome into one container, all the awesome spills out of the bucket and you're left with all the heavy stuff people aren't going to like. If someone had only said that, La Horde would have been cancelled and I wouldn't have wasted an hour and half wondering why I was trying to watch it to the end.

La Horde starts with a bunch of cops deciding that they're going to take revenge on the criminals who killed a cop before the movie even started. The first quarter of an hour or so set all this up quite well, for all the world as if this is going to be another superior policier like 36 Quai des Orfevres, except with no good actors like Depardieu and Auteuil. And there's all kind of plodding work at the funeral of the dead guy which would be great for setting up the characters if only the rest of the movie had any interest in the characters. Given what's actually going to happen, all they really need is the first long shot as the cops discover the body of their buddy, then they can cut to sneaking into the derelict high rise where the bad guys are and get on with the damn movie. Nah, we get the whole long funeral scene. And then we sneak up. Dudes. The audience knows it's gonna be a zombie movie. It's in the trailers, it's on the posters, there's simply no possibility that you can fake this out. Train. Has. Left. The. Station.

Anyhow, first fatal misstep duly whined about, we bang the good guys into the bad guys. Should have used quotes there, because pretty much everyone in the movie is an asshole. The sneaking up fails massively within seconds of coming into contact with the enemy, and while the crooks are trying to figure out just how much they're going to kill the captured cops, the zombie outbreak gets underway. And from there on it's the ill-assorted remnants of both groups fighting their way past hordes of the undead to uncertain safety in the open air.

The thing is, a bunch of guys fighting their way through a zombie infestation is plenty of meat for a movie. You don't need to throw cops and robbers in as well. But when you add to that the problem that the zombie infestation is nothing like local, but has instead infected the whole of France (hey, maybe this is the stealth sequel to 28 Weeks Later), it all starts to seem like you hate your cast. They've just got too much pitted against them.

So, everyone gets killed. The only one who's still standing at the end of the movie is the tough chick. Although the movie unaccountably doesn't bother with the sex = immediate horrible death cliche of US horror, it does stick to that old standby of everyone dying except the final girl. But while she's standing there in the daylight panting, you can hear the sound of the next wave of zombies ravening in towards her, so she's got about the same life expectancy as a mouse in a threshing machine.

It's genuinely sort of hard to give a rat's ass, however. Everyone in the movie's kind of a dick. And pressure doesn't make them any more likeable. There's a scene in the middle of the final act when the survivors manage to clip a zombie in the spine and knock her down, and as the zombie wriggles and screams and tries to snap at everyone, they start talking about raping it. I don't know if the director wanted me rooting for the zombies, but at that point I was starting to take their side. Certainly stopped me from caring when the humans started into the final death spiral.

There was the germ of a good movie in there; most of that germ is in the trailers, which is why I took the time and money to check out the movie. But by the time they'd taken the cliches of a couple of fun genres and beaten all the fun out, there wasn't much left that I wanted to watch.

No comments: