This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY ELLIOT LINES OCTOBER 24, 2023
Zombie movies all have very similar patterns when it comes to storyline, outbreak-attack-resolution. More often than not this pattern is the same, but sometimes you get the human side of the fight. This was the route The Walking Dead went down in the latter seasons, the worst in my opinion, and focussing on the humans in this world isn't always of deeper interest. But when you put it into a finite time frame, as Herd does here, there is an effectiveness to see this side of a zombie "apocalypse".
When Jamie Miller (Ellen Adair) and her wife, Alex Kanai (Mitzi Akaha), try to save their failing marriage by going on a trip, they find themselves stranded after an accident. Alex breaks her leg and they must slowly make their way to the nearest small town for help. Upon arriving they find it has been overrun by virus-infected zombies and extreme right wing local militias who are battling them. The leader of one of the groups, "Big John Gruber", shuttles them to safety at his bunker, but after witnessing personal and gruesome horrors, the women know they must escape. Jamie and Alex now find themselves on the run, caught between the group that saved them, a competing militia, and the growing infected threat.
There is a clear focus throughout Herd, and that is the people. The movie sets up the "zombie" threat, but never really spends much time exploring it. The three groups of that are in focus here are Jamie and Alex, and the 2 militia groups fighting each other. We get to know the two women fairly well throughout their dialogue on a canoe down the river, with them unknowingly heading into infected country. The two militia groups are set up to be good and evil, yet there's a case to say neither are as good as each other. This direction brings ups memories of those Walking Dead seasons, where you've got a focus on different human groups fighting in this world.
The big issue I had with those Walking Dead seasons was the lack of zombies, and that is my issue here. Understandably this is in the early stages of infected, but the threat never really feels real and the stakes seem low, this is emphasised by the abrupt resolution. The point of Herd may be just to show the real side of human nature but what's wrong with throwing in a few gruesome zombie kills just to up the ante that little bit more.
The performances are what you'd come to expected from a lower budget film, but that takes nothing away from the story being told. There is a clear focus on the relationship between human beings and aside from the lack of zombie attacks and a fairly quick resolution, Herd holds up as being a credible zombie flick.