A virus outbreak pushes a couple’s rocky marriage to its limits in Steven Pierce’s excellent new spin on the zombie genre, “HERD”.
Upon reading the synopsis for Herd, I was expecting a non-stop action gorefest:
“[A couple] find themselves on the run, caught between the group that saved them, a competing militia, and the growing infected Hep threat.”
That’s not at all the film I got. However, I was not disappointed at all with what I did get.
Director and Writer Steven Pierce (co-written with James Allerdyce) takes the zombie genre in an interesting new direction in his feature film debut while delivering a smart satire of the challenges faced in same-sex relationships and marriages in today’s insular society.
Married couple Jamie (Ellen Adair) and Alex (Mitzi Akaha) take off on a canoeing and camping trip to work on the marriage after the loss of their child. You end up feeling like you’re there as a third wheel in all this, taking the trip with them and witnessing the discomfiture of their failing marriage.
During a heated argument in the canoe and an over-the-top reaction from Alex, the couple capsize, losing all their supplies and Alex suffering from a broken leg.
After spending a couple of days isolated from the world, they have no idea about the outbreak and the horrors that await them when they get back to civilization.
Herd mainly focuses on the character Jamie Miller (Adair).
Throughout the feature, she has flashbacks of her relationship with her father and her struggles with coming out to him. He disowned her and forced Jamie to move to the city, running away from her past and meeting Alex. All this is emphasized by merging the flashbacks in between the drama.
An emergency broadcast on a television set plays in a room, where an official addresses the nation, telling them exactly what to do when they come across infected.
Now, this is important!
The official states not to aggravate the infected and essentially just to ignore them.
Fast forward to the middle of the movie. Alex is recovering from her broken leg after having surgery from a vet. Unfortunately, she is infected from getting scratched, and the couple is now hiding out in a safe bunker run by Big John. They have to keep her infection secret as these gun-waving country folk will take matters into their own hands.
This is a film made for fans of shows like The Walking Dead and The Last of Us. Rather than focusing entirely on nonstop zombie action, the focus is instead on the characters and how they react to the devastating situation.
Within every group during a zombie apocalypse movie or TV show, it seems there are always factions that form, causing in-fighting. This film is no different.
Big John’s group is the dungaree, banjo-playing militia. They face off against a military tactical unit. These moments of conflict are where the action kicks in, and it is highly enjoyable, especially as Jamie and Alex are caught up in the middle.
Despite that, some may find the film a bit slow-paced as it primarily focuses on the decline of the relationship and the desire for social acceptance in a close-knit community that doesn’t readily accept those it deems as different.
However, the story is quite gripping and makes for a mighty compelling watch.
The ending is satisfying, and Pierce (who has a role in the film as a doctor who plays a critical role in the film’s climax) cleverly explores how an isolated and paranoid group with a herd mind reacts to a disaster like a pandemic.
Instead of listening to instructions, the group decides to take matters into their own hands, with disastrous consequences.
My one criticism of the movie is a small bit of writing that really stretched credulity. But it’s a minor quip in an otherwise exceptional film.
If you’re looking for a well-written, compelling storyline with some solid action and zombies thrown in the mix, then please ignore the current ridiculously low score on IMDb and give Herd a watch.