ARMY OF THE DEAD is a zombie movie directed by Zack Snyder. It takes place after a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas. A group of mercenaries led by Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) has to get through the quarantine zone to pull off a heist. Though it is a mixture of over-the-top gore and bloodshed and comedy, there are heartfelt moments sprinkled throughout. It’s an immersive video game experience of action, various levels of zombies—including boss fights—and a mixture of weaponry all without picking up a controller.
The opening of ARMY OF THE DEAD is strikingly similar to Zombieland’s opening, complete with topless dancers. It’s clear from the outset Zach Snyder wants to imbue comedy into this flesh-eating horror—if the brightly colored title card didn’t wasn’t enough to make that clear. Despite initial similarities, ARMY OF THE DEAD carves out space in an already niche horror market to stand alone and be enjoyed on its own merits. If it were based on a video game, it would be heralded as being one of the best adaptations.
Overall, the acting is great, although Dave Bautista is outshone by almost every supporting actor. It’s not that Dave Bautista’s acting is poor. There are some hilarious moments when he first speaks to other members. It’s just that charisma is in no short supply in this film.
The relationship between Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) and Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) is one of those unlikely pairings that become comedic gold onscreen. Lilly the Coyote (Nora Arnezeder) was captivating, primarily because of her acting as she leads the mercenary group through quarantine and educates them on the hierarchy of zombiedom. Helicopter pilot Marianne (Tig Notaro) is also holding her own and shines with usual dry humor delivery despite being green-screened in for all interactions and if you didn’t know beforehand, you won’t realize it as you are watching.
The action is an extravaganza of guns, blood, and mayhem. To combine zombies with a heist film, with video game aesthetics is the excess we didn’t know we needed. Even in the midst of a zombie outbreak influencers find a way to build their fan base. Like team member Mikey (Raúl Castillo)—who records himself getting a combo video game style by taking out three zombies with one headshot. It’s interesting what can ultimately become normalized. Mikey’s friend, Chambers (Samantha Win) also stands out thanks to her knife/gun-wielding skills. The nods to previous movies about games such as Resident Evil and the creepy Silent Hill show Snyder’s love of horror and recognition of who will likely watch and love this film.
If this were a game, this would be the exact team a player would choose. Perhaps, that’s what it is; a game with multiple do-overs. After all, victory is no easy feat when you have levels of zombies from fairly easy to “what the hell is going on here!” ARMY OF THE DEAD delivers on what was promised in the trailer with an awareness that escape is the order of the day—for the mercenaries and audiences. If there is humor mixed in with a zombie outbreak, this is how it’s done. Give us games, drama, gore galore and a crew we would stand within this mayhem. Give us a Liberace impersonator belting out a tune amidst the carnage. In short, give us an ARMY OF THE DEAD sequel as soon as inhumanly possible.
ARMY OF THE DEAD will be released exclusively by Netflix on May 21, 2021.