Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: The Horde

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

The Horde                             
Directed by Jared Cohn
313 Films / Razors Edge Productions / Traplight Pictures
Gravitas Ventures / MVD Visual
87 minutes, 2012 / 2016

When I first heard the name of the film, I thought, “I wonder if it’s a zombie horde or a vampire horde? Perhaps a demon horde?” From the cover it is pretty obvious that at the very least this is a horror action film. You may ask yourself, “Isn’t most horror usually filled with action (if it’s good)?” You may ask yourself, “This is not my beautiful…” oh, sorry, I guess my mind wandered back to the 1980s…

Josh Logan has many shirtless moments
For the action part, we meet handsome ex-Navy SEAL John Crenshaw (real-life bio-chemist and stuntman/martial artist Josh Logan, who also wrote the film) and his beautiful girlfriend, Selina (Tiffany Brouwer). She’s a teacher taking five of her (high school?) beautiful students on a camping trip to take photographs of nature for school credit, including two couples and an angry and spoiled rich gay brat, Riley (Thomas Ochoa, who has specialized in LGBTQ-etc. roles).

Unfortunately, the woods are full of, oh yes, the Horde. It is a large, inbred family, which they call mutants, as they are just genetics mixed with radiation poisoning, in a similar vein to that kind of group in films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and especially The Hills Have Eyes (1977… I don’t feel a need to acknowledge the remake). They refer to the females they capture as “breeders” and the males as “meat.” Well, that explains a lot towards motivation, doesn’t it? Love it when stimulus is clean and simple. Then add the ingredient of escaped criminals and mad scientists who are out to make some meth to bring in some cash to the congenital mix, and you have a nice formula for said mutations to run amok.

The enforcer of the horde in question is a huge more-brawn-than-brain escaped con with anger issues named Stone (ex-Football player Michael Willig). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize at some point Crenshaw and the much taller Stone are going to go mano-a-mano. But that doesn’t mean Crenshaw isn’t going to have a few licks in beforehand, actually even before his class group even get to the campground (but no details about that, so no worries).

Tiffany Brouwer's Streets of Fire moment
However, the leader of the horde is fellow escapee Cylus (Australian actor Costas Mandylor, known for playing Lt. Hoffman in the Saw series), and Earl, the literal butcher, who makes fresh tongue sandwiches (on white bread) is none other than fellow Aussie Vernon Wells (arguably best known as Wes, the mohawk’d villain in the only Mel Gibson film I can still watch without wanting to puke, 1981’s Road Warrior/Mad Max 2); he has a great nearly-whispered monolog just past the halfway point. You can see that there are some heavy duty heavies in this film. Plus, Bill Moseley (Otis in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects) and Don “The Dragon” Wilson have a bit of cameos, as well.

There are no huge surprises along the way, as Logan stealthily makes his way through the horde camp, killing without a second thought from his training background; “I’ve done a lot of things for my country I’m proud of, and some I’m not proud of,” he tells Riley at some point early on, an exposition to show he’s a trained military assassin (though I wonder what he does for a living since retiring from service). Actually, it’s easy to cheer for each kill, and it’s nice to root for the good hunter rather than the bad ones (e.g., Freddy, Jason and Michael). While abound in clichés and genre tropes, such as rising out of the water similarly to Rambo, this is still a fun watch. Truthfully, I’m not that much into pure action films with a hero rescuing his lady (in a tied-up situation reminiscent of 1984’s excellent Streets of Fire) by killing and beating everyone up, but this falls big on the plus side because the body count is high, the film looks good, and the action is definitely enjoyable. Logan makes for a formidable and likeable hero (who, of course, is shirtless as much as possible – including the scene that introduces his character – to show off his pack).

One of the mutants
The gore here is impressive, extensive and beautifully handled by a top-notch SFX team. Limbs are often separated, heads are smashed or snapped, and yes, an arm is broken a la Steven Seagal style. Also, the cinematography by Laura Beth Love is worth noting; there is lots of fog lighting giving us Logan in crouching silhouette, ready for the next move.

There are some double crosses along the way that you’re bound to see coming from a mile away, but again, so what. All things considered, part of what makes this film, along with the action of punching, chopping and hacking, is the direction. Jared Cohn is known for some heavy duty B-films, such as Hold Your Breath (2012), 12/12/12 (2012) and a bunch of the Sharknado sequels, so he knows how to frame the film into a positive mode for a genre fan. The lighting may be cliché at times (e.g., the smoky back lighting), but it’s never too dark to see what’s happening (for which I’m always grateful), the sound is solid, and the acting in commendable if sometimes a tad overdone (Riley’s pissy moments, for example).

The extras are kind of short, but shweeet. First up is a 2:28 b-roll (over music) of some of the CK VFX work done in the digital world, most of which look pretty good. That being said, there are a couple of fire tricks that are a bit weak as they look more like fire overlays than whatever it is aflame. Some of the splatter is obviously digi, but that is true for most films these days. Overall, the rest is pretty good. I enjoyed seeing how the effects were built.

Along with the trailer and chapter breaks, next up is the 16:36 “Making Of” (listed as “The EPK” – E-Press Kit – on the Extras page). Including on-set interviews with much of the cast and crew, this was one of the fun behind-the-scenes featurettes I’ve seen in a while. There’s no areas where it lags, but rather it keeps the viewers’ (well, this one, anyway) interest straight through. Somewhere in there Willig says, “It’s a fun ride.” And he’s right.

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