After the release of his 2004 hit Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder finally returns to the zombie genre with big expectations for Army of the Dead. Set in a zombie riddled Las Vegas, $50 million dollars are on the line for Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and his team. But this isn’t just any heist. It’s a zombie heist. Filled with explosions, gore, death, and even a zombie tiger, Ward tries to escape his burger flipping hell by assembling a rag tag group of zombie experts and stone cold killers to commit the most dangerous heist of all.
With the best elements of both the heist and zombie genre, Army knows the tropes that viewers have seen for years and uses the best ones, including assembling the rag tag team of “losers” trying to score big money and the infamous “you son of a bitch, I’m in” vibe from heist movies. However, as a horror movie, Army all manages to play with these stereotypes and flip them around. For example, as the plans fall through, people get slaughtered in gruesome ways at the hands of the overwhelming hoards. As the zombies devour the crew and hopelessness overwhelms them, the fun heist elements die out.
Embedded in the film is a theme of greed becoming people’s demise. Driven by the cash, Ward and his team care more about the reward than each other. As a result, many deaths throughout the film are all directly related to them acting selfish. Though, this carries a certain irony to it as well. [Spoilers] In fact, considering that the whole purpose of any heist movie is for characters to get to the money so that they can live a luxurious life, it’s a little ironic that the only person who didn’t want the money for themselves ended up surviving. [Spoilers End]
My favourite part of Army of the Dead is the opening credits sequence as it shows us the beginning of the pandemic. Set to the song Viva Las Vegas, the sequence highlights the team members’ backgrounds and establishes all the world building necessary. By contrasting the gore and hardcore action with lively music is a nice touch and really sets the viewer up for the fun that one would expect from a heist movie in a post-zombie world. Army of the Dead really allowed Snyder freedom to use his skills in the horror genre, while throwing in the action sequences viewers have loved from films like 300 and his DC involvement (and yes, that includes lots of slow-motion shots).
Another thing that I enjoyed is that Snyder adds to the lore of the world that he’s created by making the zombies intelligent and even creating a hierarchy amongst them. In many ways, it creates a Planet of the Apes kind of vibe. Unlike other zombie films, these creatures are an intelligent species trying to coexist with humans and grow. These ideas made it particularly interesting to see how a zombie society works and, from an action standpoint, viewing how they would have their own type of warfare that utilizes their strengths.
If you like zombie and heist movies, then you’ll love Army of the Dead. With his return to the genre, Snyder has done well by offering all the action, gore, and most of the great moments that you’d expect from both genres. (And it doesn’t hurt that it’s all wrapped up in Snyder’s unique stylistic box as well.)
Army of the Dead premieres May 21st on Netflix.