Genre: Action, Horror
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director(s): Steven Pierce
Writer(s): James Allerdyce, Steven Pierce
Cast: Ellen Adair, Jeremy Holm, Timothy V. Murphy, Corbin Bernsen, Mitzi Akaha
Where To Watch: UK Home Entertainment release on October 23 by High Fliers Films, US release at New York Comic Con on October 12, 2023 and will be released in theaters + on digital platforms on October 13
RAVING REVIEW: If you’ve dove into the world of zombies, you may think you’ve seen it all. Enter Steven Pierce’s HERD, attempting to breathe new life into a horror subgenre that some might say has been done to (un)death. When your lead, Ellen Adair’s Jamie Miller, is battling real zombies and the metaphorical skeletons in her closet, you’re in for a unique ride.
Now, let’s set the scene. Imagine a quiet countryside, where the most significant concern might be whether it’ll rain tomorrow. That’s where HERD begins. But just when you’re about to kick back and enjoy the story, you’re thrown headlong into the deep end with a surprise zombie attack. It’s refreshing yet leaves you pining for more of the “before.” I genuinely enjoyed the setup of the film and the real-world parallels.
Pierce ambitiously throws several ingredients into his storytelling cauldron – martial law, strained love, and reactions to pandemics. Could this be a playful nod to our global pandemic response? Perhaps. But in cramming in so many elements, the storyline sometimes feels like it’s trying on too many hats. Amidst this melee, there’s the heart-wrenching narrative of Jamie and her wife, Alex, with Mitzi Akaha’s stellar performance. Add Big John Gruber, impeccably portrayed by Jeremy Holm, and the narrative complexity multiplies.
What makes HERD stand out from the herd (pun intended!) is its novel take on how humans react when the chips are down. Instead of the stereotypical ‘fight or flight’ response, Pierce introduces characters like Jamie’s dad, Robert Miller (brought to life by Corbin Bernsen), who navigate the chaos more contemplatively.
Brennan Full’s cinematography paints a vivid picture, tackling this world of the undead with more care than I’m used to in most modern-day zombie films. Caitlyn Young’s makeup department worked magic, transforming actors into zombies that would give anyone nightmares. Along with the entire cast and crew, you could tell there was a different passion and commitment to this project.
Pierce’s HERD doesn’t drown you in a sea of zombie skirmishes. Instead, it delves deep into the psyche of its characters, making their struggles the actual storyline. Yet, the film occasionally could use a little work to create consistent pacing. Sometimes, it felt like all or nothing from one scene to the next. Steven Pierce has undoubtedly thrown his hat into the horror ring with HERD. It’s like watching an artist sketch – some lines are meticulously detailed, others are broad strokes.
In conclusion, HERD doesn’t entirely redefine the zombie genre despite its creative peaks and insightful societal commentary. But if you’re reading between the lines, there’s a clear message: Steven Pierce is a rising director to keep an eye on. His feature debut offers a hint of the brilliance to come, and while HERD may not be the final word in zombie narratives, it’s a sure sign that Pierce is a name to remember in the cinematic universe.
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[photo courtesy of HIGH FLIERS FILMS]
MY SAG-AFTRA/WGA STRIKE STATEMENT:
As an advocate for creators, actors, and writers, I firmly stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA in their current strike. The entertainment industry is built on these individuals’ extraordinary talents, and their contributions must be appropriately recognized and rewarded. They deserve fair compensation, sensible work hours, and respect for their creative rights. I believe in the power of unity and collective action, and I’m steadfast in my support for their fight for better working conditions and fair remuneration. Together, we can shape a more equitable future in the entertainment world.
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