The film follows John Crenshaw as he accompanies his girlfriend and her students on a weekend nature-photography expedition deep into the woods. What should be an educational and fun-filled weekend turns into horror as the group is besieged by an unspeakable evil - a horde of hideously disfigured, mutated humans with an insatiable taste for blood. As things go from bad to worse, Crenshaw becomes their only hope if they are going to get out alive.
May 6, 2016 (VOD)
Paul Logan as John
Costas Mandylor as Cylus
Jared Cohn’s genre mashup piece, The Horde is an interesting little film that never once pretends to be something that it isn’t. What it is, is a fun blend of action, martial arts mayhem and horror. It’s cheesy and it freely borrows from a wealth of other genre films, The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn chief among those influences. But it never leans on ignorance, playing aloof or gives off a pretentious vibe. The movie knows what it’s all about and it revels in that freedom. Fans of 80s horror fare are definitely going to find a few moments to chuckle in approval.
The story starts as just about any other slasher or backwoods slasher film. A teacher (it’s unclear if we’re dealing with high school or college kids; there’s a certain ambiguity to this aspect of the story that leaves viewers to wonder, despite the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle that the students employ, to seeming no aggravation to their teacher… odd) and her boyfriend guide a small handful of students to a rural location for a wilderness photography trip. It could have been pleasant, if it weren’t for the large group of armed, aggressive, mutated miners who favor attacking, raping and eating out-of-towners.
It’s all familiar, but it’s not necessarily offensive. Cohn has some serious fun with a few of these characters, including that of John Crenshaw (Paul Logan), the way, way, way over-the-top hero with a mean military background and the mental and physical fortitude of 100 battle-tested warriors. Cylus Atkinson (played by Costas Mandylor) is a fine villain, and he channels his inner Negan pretty damn well. There are a few other bit players that also sell their fictionalized personalities well. All in all, this is a ragtag bunch that fit pretty well into a silly homage flick.
A quick side note: Be on the lookout for a few unexpected appearances. Bill Moseley shows up, and that’s not necessarily a shocker, but the hulking, well-versed Matthew Willig makes a fine appearance while the movie’s hardcore shocker is the inclusion of Vernon Wells, who most won’t recognize… unless they rewind the clock a few decades and watch Commando, in which Wells played the menacing villain Bennett – who, if you recall, finds himself impaled in Commando’s big battle royale. Great to see this man in action in a brand new genre pic… especially since he now sports a strong resemblance to Blade’s sidekick, Whistler, or Kris Kristofferson, as he was born.
One of the real standout treats of the picture is the consistently graphic and impressive special effects work. The Horde is loaded with practical effects, so we see a good deal of up-close and personal shots depicting torture and dismemberment. And the dismemberment scenes are great thanks to some very admirable prosthetic work. If you’re really into violent films drenched in loads of crimson and stuffed with creative slaughter, The Horde should leave you feeling satisfied.
The truth is, while I found plenty of enjoyable qualities in the film (the slow motion crossbow scenes left me in stitches!), The Horde will not work for everyone. There are going to be a great deal of viewers who see this movie as nothing other than a rip-off. Those kind of complaints could be understandable, as The Horde certainly isn’t original in any way and you’ve already been alerted to some of the film’s heaviest influences. For me, this one didn’t strike me as a copycat film, it struck me as a “let’s have fun and not take this one too seriously” kind of project. There are a lot of hat tips in this one and I liked that. There’s a good time to be had here if you’re willing to approach it with an open mind. Cast your judgement aside and let some absurdity take you away, it makes for a nice break from reality.