“Subtext be damned” is the clarion call of Gaul’s first zombie movie, “The Horde,” which keeps the pedal pretty close to the metal throughout. Professionally assembled on a tight $3 million budget by debuting feature directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, this high-grunge item makes the most of its limited sets, as cops and criminals are forced to work together in a tower block invaded by the undead. Minimal character development starts to work against the movie as the bodies pile up, but genre addicts should respond in fast playoff and on ancillary.
Hard-nosed Paris cop Franck Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing) discovers the bound and tortured corpse of a colleague, Mathias Rivoallan. At Rivoallan’s funeral, various tensions are set up between his four colleagues: tough female cop Aurore (Claude Perron), who shagged him; Franck, who knows it; and Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) and Tony (Antoine Oppenheim). Rivoallan’s widow makes the four cops promise to kill the gangsters who murdered her husband.
That’s about it for character setup, as the quartet set out to the northern suburbs to find the Markudis, holed up in some dreary-looking projects due for demolition. Before you can say “ambush,” the unlikable, corrupt foursome are caught by the equally unlikable Markudis, led by big, black psychopath Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney) and his mad brother Bola (Doudou Masta).
However, when a slobbering masked zombie bursts through the door of the apartment, chaos ensues. The surviving three cops and three gangsters make it to the roof, from where Paris is seen ablaze and hordes of the undead are headed for the high-rise. The six sensibly call an uneasy truce to fight their way down to the ground floor.
Apart from the splitting of the group, and the introduction at the midway point of a crazy old survivor, Rene (Yves Pignot), there’s little variation during the rest of the movie, as zombies are blown away or fought hand-to-hand in dingy corridors.
Action choreography by Alain Figlarz (who cameos as the caretaker) is fine, trimly edited by Dimitri Amar. At least one setpiece, an explosive bitch fight between Aurore and a female zombie, is memorable.
However, the main protags hardly register in the pauses between the violence. Only Pignot, as crusty Vietnam vet Rene, adds some character ballast.