THE HORDE (2016)
Genre mashups are pretty standard for movies that involve certain old horror clichés but they tend to be a mixture of comedy and violence rather than horror and action. But writer and actor Paul Logan decided that what the campsite slasher film really needed was to say, well so what if Rambo was on the trip? Besides, he clearly wanted to cast himself as the muscle bound Commando type hero, and who am I to argue. It certainly makes a change of tact in comparison to the usual First Blood knock-offs out there. I’m sure there are plenty of low budget violence fans who are game for this type of scenario too. But the other side of the coin is that all of those back woods killer tropes have to be accounted for, and to balance things out there is a whole story about his school teacher girlfriend and her obnoxious class of expendable teens. How does each half of the equation fare?
Ex-Navy SEAL John Crenshaw has his romantic weekend plans foiled when his other half (Selina Duboix) has to move her student nature trip forward unexpectedly, and he finds himself driving the gang to the subtly named Sapphire Lake. But an array of creepy locals, shady law enforcement officials and oddball strangers on the roadside are a sign that things are about to go really bad really fast. Will they survive the night as a sizeable gang of mutants and escaped killers approach? And which of these annoying kids will get the axe first?
In an opening prelude the film cuts to the chase as a lone couple are extracted from their tent at night and savaged by a nasty ensemble of crazed murderers. The splatter effects are soon interrupted unfortunately as the story diverts and we are introduced to Mrs. Brouwer and her small group of students. What this class is and why it only has about five or six members is unclear, but this serves as a means to get them to the lake of course. I’m also pretty sure nobody gets a grade for pitching a tent and taking random photos of turtles and rodents, but what do I know. Although I doubt that the horny couple who decide to use their time taking nude photos of themselves are getting a pass. This first act is mostly a drag as the rich brat of the group complains endlessly about having to be there and the others make small talk about dating. Once the bags are unpacked they finally get split up, and soon John’s machete swinging skills are put into use.
The problem with this first act is that the nature of his past is not treated with any sense of mystery. They have a nasty run in with a couple of drunks early on who he quickly despatches, so we know he will just use brute force when the time comes. As the cannibals and rapists show up he gets knocked down into a ditch momentarily so the gruesome horror scenes can play out, but there’s no real build up or tension since we’ve seen his abilities already. Don’t get me wrong, once he turns full Punisher on the bad guys it is a lot of fun with plenty of arrows, knives and fire put to good use, but why isn’t that the whole movie? The setup to all of this is necessary in some ways but most of the chit chat is superfluous, and the rest of the cast just exist to increase the body count and offer the resident freak show a few torture subjects.
On that subject the film certainly has a lot of nasty gore and a few of the effects moments are particularly gross. The makeup for the mutated locals has some good variety employed to portray disfigured faces and limbs. Although how radiation and inbreeding caused one of them to become some kind of tree-man is beyond me. The interior sets are lit far more effectively than anything else in the story and there are several visually pleasing, if disgusting sets used for drug labs and torture chambers. Vernon Wells gets a brief but show stealing moment as a maniac butcher of some kind, and his meat monologue adds some well needed character to the proceedings. It’s just a shame this is so fleeting as the material is desperately asking for a sense of fun to be injected to it. The blend of film influences they’ve put together isn’t quite enough to make this something that’s good-bad, even though it’s constantly on the edge of becoming so.
The whole killing spree montage section of the film does offer some amusement value however, particularly when it becomes evident the makers don’t care if the time frame need to construct elaborate traps doesn’t make sense, and that they want to keep using the same loud guitar theme every time the action starts up. The music in general is pretty over done, as are some of the sound effects which is distracting at times. If you can’t resist seeing this based on the premise it does just about deliver in the end, but they take far too long getting there and the slasher genre moments in the first half should have been reworked to build on the strongest elements.