It’s a week long trip to the backwoods of Missouri for Jamie Miller and Alex Kanai, trying to leave their problems behind and put their broken relationship back together, the problem being that they have brought every bitter resentment and frustration with them, sharing nothing and snapping at each other, Jamie particularly stressed because she is back where she grew up, knowing she could easily arrange a detour to see her father if for no other reason than to tell him she still hasn’t forgiven him and never will.

The radio news discussing the “manageable situation” of a viral outbreak ignored as distand and irrelevant, when Alex tips the canoe and breaks her leg it becomes immediate, Jamie carrying her semi-conscious girlfriend to the main road to flag down help where it is immediately assumed they are infected and targeted by an armed man; a chance encounter with John Gruber who recognises her from high school gives them temporary respite, but have simply they traded one bad situation for another?

Its world premiere hosted at FrightFest, Herd is directed by Steven Pierce from a script co-written with James Allerdyce and starring Trick’s Ellen Adair and Archive 81’s Mitzi Akaha as Jamie and Alex, two capable women who once loved each other who must now maintain an awkward façade as uncomfortable guests of a quasi-religious enclave led by Big John (Brooklyn 45’s Jeremy Holm) who believes it was the actions of Jamie’s estranged father which saved them all.

The herd mentality opposed to “alternative lifestyles” and every bit as dangerous when provoked as the infected beyond the gates, the threat is exacerbated by a rival faction competing for the limited resources, better equipped than Big John’s men and composed of professional militia rather than families, their leader Sterling (Mob Land’s Timothy K Murphy) having no scruples about the bodies he steps over to be top dog.

The flashes of backstory more infuriating than informative, Herd falls into the pitfalls of the standard infected narrative: been scratched by a carrier? Pretend you weren’t and carry on as before. Got an assigned security duty? Be sure to abandon it so you can posture defiantly while the enemy sneak in the back door. With every infection and betrayal predictable, while the resolution is unexpectedly upbeat it does not convince, soap opera superceding the earlier social commentary on the worst of American gun culture.

The ensemble excellent despite the failings of the script, Adair conveying the claustrophobia and tension within the compound and fear of what is beyond the walls as Jamie conceals both her relationship and her girlfriend’s worsening condition while Big John and his followers are convinced of their righteousness, Herd is undeniably competent but offers little new, The Walking Dead and its associated media now having run to over three hundred episodes and the zombie epidemic survivalist dilemma examined in every possible iteration, though it does serve as an efficient summation for those who lack the patience.

FrightFest has now concluded



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