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[FrightFest 2023] FILM REVIEW: Herd

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Herd - FrightFest World Premiere

Director: Steven Pierce

Starring: Ellen Adair, Mitzi Akaha, Corbin Bernsen, Jeremy Holm

Written by: James Allerdyce, Steven Pierce

Produced by: James Allerdyce, Bret Carr, Lori Kay, Steven Pierce

Cinematography by: Brennan Full

Original Score by: Alecander Arntzen


When a woman trying to outrun her past ends up trapped between a zombie outbreak and warring militia groups, she must fight to find her way back home.


The undead or “zombies” have been running or slowly moving around (your own preference) for decades now. Beginning with 'White Zombie' in 1932, the zombie sub genre came into the public consciousness with George A. Romero’s horror classic 'Night of the Living Dead' in 1968. Romero’s film would lay the groundwork for what audiences would come to know and love about the blood dripping, brain hungry ghouls. Furthermore 'The Walking Dead' re-established zombies for a new generation and the zombie craze is still going strong. In 'Herd' Writer/Director Steven Pierce brings us his take on the zombie apocalypse.

The film follows Jamie Miller (Ellen Adair) and her wife Alex (Mitzi Akaha) who are trying to save their failing marriage by going on an isolated trip in a rural part of Missouri. After an accident, the two women find themselves trapped back in Jamie’s small hometown where her father still resides. Unbeknownst to them, the town has become overrun by an infecting virus they class as “Heps” (A nod to Trips?). Jamie and Alex then come across Big John Gruber (Jeremy Holm) and his clan. They help Jamie and Alex by shuttling them to a local vet, who treats Alex’s injured leg. A horde of heps descend on the vet’s office, forcing the group to flee to a warehouse that the locals are using as a survival base.

Once at the warehouse, a rival militia led by Sterling (Timothy G. Murphy), arrives claiming they want to trade supplies. When the trade goes south, a battle breaks out between the two militia groups causing Jamie to try and flee. Will they find a way to escape and find their way back home?

'Herd' is an interesting take on zombie lore. Steven Pierce knows how to set up an atmospheric setting. The opening sequence where Jamie’s father is confronted by a hep is quite well done and suspenseful. What makes 'Herd' stand out from other standard films in the sub-genre is that it focuses more on the human aspects and their emotional reactions. The relationship between Jamie and Alex is very complicated. While the two ladies are canoeing down the isolated Missouri Lake it's clear the bitterness for one another is biting away at each of them but there is still undesired love for one another, even if it’s hard to see.

Steven Pierce does a fine job of exploring the psychological implications of how one goes about dealing with extreme situations. Taking a page from 'The Walking Dead' and others that have followed, the film elects to give us a more grounded feel where the survivors are not only battling the undead but other humans. Morality comes into question when faced with a dilemma and this is where the film truly excels. Jamie’s fathers reactions to her telling him about her sexuality is fascinating yet very uncomfortable. This human drama is quite unique for a zombie film.

The cast is excellent. Both Ellen Adair and Mitzi Akaha are exceptional in their roles. They make you feel that they are truly going through a breakdown in their marriage and that this is truly tearing each of them apart (no pun intended). Once things turn nasty, it’s their unrelenting bond and love for each other that makes the film work. The rest of the cast are great too and it was cool to see Corbin Bernsen (who horror fans will recognise as the killer dentist Alan Fienstone from Brian Yuzna’s 'Dentist' films) as Jamie’s hateful father.

The gore and violence is kept to a minimum, which might actually make the film work even better. It's only gory when it needs to be and the story and characters are strong enough to keep things going. There’s certain homages to other zombies movies too and there’s even visual nods to John Boorman’s 'Deliverance' when our two heroines are rafting down the river. Brennan Full's cinematography is great. The lack of light throughout the night time shots ramps up the feeling of unease while there’s a complete contrast to the blazingly bright daytime scenes. The score is quite subtle here, feels a little downplayed that fits within the framework of an emotional character study instead of going balls out and over the top.

While it doesn’t completely reinvent the genre, 'Herd' does offers us something a little different. Thanks to great performances, a great script and excellent cinematography, 'Herd' is a zombie film that might well sit alongside the works of Romero.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

- Joe Lennon

'Herd' received its World Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 26th and will be released in the UK by High Fliers on October 23rd

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