Herd, The

Rating:

“Get In There!”

Main Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Victoria Broom

Director: Melanie Light

My very first thought upon starting Melanie Light’s 2014 short film THE HERD was about 2 seconds in when I thought, “Hey, that woman looks like Pollyanna McIntosh.”

Then I checked the credits and saw it IS Pollyanna McIntosh and I thought, “What the hell’s she doing here?  She was on The Walking Dead!”

And then the plot started unfolding and things got real.

THE HERD (written by Ed Pope, INVOKING 4) is known as “the first Feminist Vegan Horror movie”, and while I don’t know if it’s the FIRST, it definitely fits that category.

This short film (16:23) is a play on the dairy industry as a small group of women are being kept in cages in a grimy old building.  We see several women hooked up to breast pumps, while in another room a pregnant woman gives birth on a dirty floor.  The doctor (McIntosh) delivers the baby and is disappointed when it’s a boy.  Since the captors have no use for a boy, the baby is disposed of in a pretty heartless and dismissive manner, and the mother is left crying in her cage.

This place is a breeding farm, harvesting women for their milk, for what reason we don’t know until the end, but when we see it, it’s a pretty scathing review of a particular industry.

THE HERD is a hard watch, definitely a horror movie, and it definitely has a message behind it.  Pope and Light have done their best to show the darker side of this industry—hell, a few industries when you get down to it—but on another level, there are some problems with the logistics here.

I get the point, and I see what they’re saying.  But in a more … let’s say realistic view of this movie, if you’re breeding women for their milk, if successful births is what you’re after, why not keep them comfortable?  I know, I know, you don’t keep livestock in the house, they sleep in the barn or outside (I’ve read TENDER IS THE FLESH), but at least give them beds?  Give ’em a shower every so often?  But this is not a realistic view, this is a horror short.

So how does THE HERD work on that level?

It was fine.  It looked like there was some serious money behind this one—I mean, Pollyanna McIntosh is a legit star, she couldn’t have come cheap, unless she’s a strict feminist vegan and did it for the cause—and Light (Fear Haus) is a good director who knows how to convey frenzy and chaos.  The other main actors, most notably Victoria Broom (WONDER WOMAN 1984) as Paula, were convincing without being over the top, which would have been really easy in this story.  But they all managed to reel it in just enough.

If I had to find a gripe with this one, it would be one I’m uncomfortable making because fair is fair.  I really don’t like being preached to—and the level of preaching in this short was above and beyond; they’re not subtly suggesting maybe we should treat animals better, Pope and Light are showing you the mess you’ve made on the carpet and shoving your face in it to make damn sure there’s no misunderstanding.  And while I accept their right to be so heavy handed, the enthusiasm with which they tackle this subject had me rolling my eyes and saying, “Oh boy, here we go.”  Which, I understand, is disrespectful to someone who truly believes in a cause, but like I told my wife, “Whoppers are delicious!”

I know, I know, the women were being harvested for their milk, not their meat, but you get what I’m saying.  There’s this bit in the credits, “Similarities to the dairy industry are entirely deliberate.” At the end, a much longer part about how hundreds of millions of cows suffer and die every year at the hands of the dairy industry and how their bodies are treated like machines and the cries of a mother having her newborn calf taken from her echo with grief, ending with, true horror isn’t found in the movie theater, it is found in reality

That’s the part I’m talking about.  Make your movie, tell your story, but leave me to make up my mind about what to take away from it.  True horror isn’t found in the theater but in reality?  Well then stop making movies and go protest.  I’m having nachos later, and they’re going to be smothered in delicious cheese.  Or whatever theater cheese is really made of…

But, like I said, fair is fair.  I support their right to be as heavy handed as they want.  And when I make a movie about how much I love animals flame broiled with some ketchup and mayo, onion and lettuce, with cheese, hold the tomato, I hope they give me the same chance to say my piece.

You can watch THE HERD for free on YouTube.

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