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Herd: A Once-Over-Lightly Lesbian Romance Viral Zompoc That Could Have Been Great. But isn’t.

Herd 2023We heard a fair amount about Herd (so to speak, as it were) in the weeks before its limited theatrical release in October ‘23.

On the surface, Herd seemed promising. The couple at the center of the story (and we all know how important that couple should be: the best zombie movies aren’t just about zombies; they’re about the humans and how relationships are challenged by the Rising) had an interesting twist. It was clear even from the trailer that this was a lesbian love story – one of the first we can recall in a zombie film. What possibilities: parallels between the suspicion and violence of the undead and being openly gay in America, the prejudices and possible acts of courage or cowardice that their relationship could trigger; maybe we’d even see a revealing story of a friendship that broadens and deepens in the midst of the apocalypse. Who knew?

Unfortunately, “on the surface” turns out to be an all too appropriate term. Nothing about Herd goes deep or involves you – not the look, not the premise, not the romance or action or acting. The walkers are painfully familiar to even the most casual zomfan (viral, semi-fast, awkward more than shambling, with middling mental capacity). The gay couple at the center are established and stable, and experience no real stresses from their relationship during the outbreak. The plot itself is not only slow to unfold but so familiar it lacks even moderate suspense. And the characters – including our main couple, their acquaintances. their fellow victims, and the all-too-familiar “militias” that immediately seize control of the imperiled neighborhood — act so stupidly, so unrealistically, that you can’t work up enough interest to either defend them or hate them. Or even, frankly, remember them. Even the look of the zombies themselves is unremarkable; You’ve seen better cosplay. Often.

One critic on IMDB said, “It isn’t really a zombie movie at all,” and in fact… they’re right. But that’s true of almost every element in the film. The zombie infection could be a super-flu or even just civil unrest. The gay couple could be straight or old or newlyweds, given their complete lack of unique… well, unique anything. And – SPOILER ALERT here, fellow citizens – it isn’t even a permanent outbreak. The ‘writers’ settled on a nondescript “vital zombie” premise, and even when one of the principles dies, she doesn’t really die. Not that she rises from the dead. Oh, no. She just gets better. She just gets cured, because it’s just a virus, y’see, so the main characters and some of the bad guys and society itself easily and swiftly recover from the whole walking-dead unpleasantness. It doesn’t really matter.

Which could easily be said of Herd as a whole. For all the assertive pre-release publicity, it’s a very small blip on the radar in terms of filmmaking, suspenseful storytelling, or zombie culture. It came. It played. It faded away.

What a shame. Such potential.

Fwiw, Herd is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime. It has not yet been picked up by any of the streaming services.


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