The difference between most action and horror films is just a matter of perspective. Predator would have been downright terrifying if the lead actor was just a random schmoe and not Arnold Schwarzenegger, and James Cameron’s Aliens would have been just as scary as the original had Ripley not evolved into a badass extraterrestrial killer. This muddling of genres is responsible for quite a few cinematic masterpieces, which is why Jared Cohn’s The Horde looked so promising, despite the cannibal hillbilly shtick that we’ve seen so many times before.
The Horde stars Paul Logan as Crenshaw, an ex-navy seal accompanying his photography teacher girlfriend Selina Duboix, played by Tiffany Brouwer, on a camping trip with her students. The seemingly innocent excursion soon becomes a bloodbath, however, as the group is attacked by the titular horde of deformed natives. As the others are captured, Crenshaw’s resourcefulness and military training becomes their only hope of getting out of these woods alive.
An action story within a Wrong Turn/The Hills Have Eyes scenario is admittedly an interesting premise, and while the film does play around with certain tropes and clichés, we’ve seen a lot of this before. It is undoubtedly a blast to watch Crenshaw beat up mutant rednecks, but Cohn doesn’t exactly add anything to either the action or horror formulas. The antagonists are suitably repugnant, and the main characters are developed just enough that you feel sorry for them, but there’s been so many similar stories like this that much of the tension falls flat.
Logan’s Rambo-esque action scenes are delightfully cheesy while still feeling brutal, though the slightly obnoxious soundtrack sometimes nudges these moments into self-parody. In a cathartic sense, it is very satisfying to see rapist monsters get what they deserve, despite these shortcomings. A few kills and one-liners do feel out of place due to the film’s unpredictable tone, as Cohn attempts to balance 80’s style violence with a few genuinely unsettling moments of physical and psychological torture. On their own, these moments work fantastically, but as a whole, the film ends up feeling disjointed, as if Crenshaw’s struggle to save his bride-to-be and the student’s suffering are two completely different films. Bill Moseley also has a minor role as a bartender, but he doesn’t get as much screentime as he should, which is a shame.
It’s hard not to like a film so charmingly dedicated to making the most of its slightly absurd premise. The Horde may feel derivative because of the copious amounts of similar films that have been produced in the past (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End also happened to have a military character hell-bent on destroying the nefarious mutants, as did other films), but it’s obvious that the cast and crew had a blast making this movie. That actually makes up for much of the film’s faults, but doesn’t quite put it on the same level as some previous mutant cannibal movies. As it stands, The Horde is a fun ride and an acceptably cheesy guilty pleasure.
The Horde comes out on most VOD platforms in the US and Canada on May 6th!