A gigantic meathead of a man goes camping with his teacher girlfriend and her photography class. There, they are beset by a tribe of Hillbillies and violent ex-convict cannibals cooking up meth in the woods. When his girlfriend and the kids are dragged off to the monsters’ grisly rape dens, it’s down to jacked John Crenshaw (Paul Logan) to save the day. If only the missus had allowed him to bring his guns, eh.
Ashley Williams, Ellen Ripley and Lefty Enright aside, the legitimate horror badass is a relatively rare treat in genre cinema. After all, it’s easier to get on with the plot if your hero spends most of his or her time running away or hiding – usually before a little burst of competence, right at the end. And then you get a film like You’re Next or No-One Lives, which subvert that victimisation wonderfully, turning the Hunters into the Hunted. Or The Horde, the hero of which is such an ass-kicker that he needs a literal horde of cannon fodder in order for the film to not be over in about twenty minutes. Also, a lack of guns, which would have ended it in even less time than that.
Crenshaw may have been forbidden from bringing his automatic weaponry, but there’s no separating him from his other guns – a truly hefty set of biceps he wastes little time in putting to good use. Ex-Navy SEAL turned condescending boyfriend Crenshaw is the sort of man who brings MMA techniques to a bar brawl, shrugging off local yokels and vicious ex-cons alike, rarely breaking a sweat. Entertaining as it may be to watch our low-budget Rambo tearing out throats and shooting fiery arrows at people, this inevitably means that there’s a lot less tension than there should be. Even Wrong Turn 2 had the good grace to hamper Henry Rollins’s game, while Leatherface saddled Ken Fioree with a bent rifle. No such fairness here – just Crenshaw breaking limbs and drop-kicking people all over the woods. An even bigger Matthew Willig and typically mumble-y Costas Mandylor (remember him?) at least give Crenshaw something to stumble against, however briefly.
What should be a fun blend of action movie and slasher flick is, sadly, tainted by its idiot politics and repulsive use of rape in lieu of actual scares or atmosphere. ‘There’s no rush,’ the film tells its pretty young nervous virgin. ‘Wait until you’re ready’, it says, before having her gang raped ten minutes later. Crenshaw’s intended is spared, at least: will she get raped before her cut-price Captain America saves her? These are what pass for the film’s stakes, like Liam Neeson trying to rescue his daughter from sex slavery in Taken.
This, combined with the film’s stupid infatuation with its own leading man, leaves something of a sour taste in the mouth. The Horde is fun, but, just as the whole school trip is taken over and undermined by a bulky dick who does more teaching than his teacher girlfriend (because Macho), it tends to be bullied into submission by its own worst inclinations.
THE HORDE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JARED COHN / SCREENPLAY: PAUL LOGAN / STARRING: PAUL LOGAN, MATTHEW WILLIG, COSTAS MANDYLOR / RELEASE DATE: TBA