Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of The Dead remake is arguably one of the best horror remakes, not to mention one of the best zombie movies made. I say arguably because many purists believe the original 1978 Romero classic can never be bested, and should not have been remade in the first place. I however, am not in this camp. Having seen the original on the big screen in LA a few years ago I do feel its big cheesiness and fluorescent paint-like blood effects didn’t stand up to scrutiny; and so whist I respect its status in the annals of horror classics, I don’t really rate it as a movie. Sacrilege to some I know!
Some 16 years later Snyder is back with a new zombie effort – Army of The Dead. Opening frugally on its own backstory, we quickly learn how the zombie outbreak occurred, how it overtook Vegas and how ‘Zombie Town’ was effectively walled off from the assorted Las Vegas survivors; this is all before the opening credits.
The meat of the story concerns a sprawling cast of intrepid scrappers, gathered together by Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward, ostensibly for a heist in zombie town. The story goes that when Vegas was effectively shut down, a few millionaires lost access to their riches, and one such mogul is hoping to hire some mercenaries to infiltrate a casino deep in the heart of zombie town and retrieve said millions. There is added pressure however when plans to nuke Vegas and eliminate the zombie threat is announced; and so the countdown begins.
This ragtag group is comprised of Scott, his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), helicopter pilot Marianne (Tig Notaro), various tough guys/gals, YouTube sensation Guzman and his partner Chambers, tracker The Coyotye, sadistic guard Bart and more. Interestingly, even with so many characters they do all manage to make an impact, perhaps that’s down to the ambitious runtime of 2.5 hours. This length allows us to spend time with each character before the action gets going, but once we are in the zombie zone it doesn’t let up. There are sacrifices to make, safes to crack and bombs to dodge; before we head to a largely satisfying finale, though I felt the last few shots were disappointingly ‘as expected’.
I didn’t care for the whole ‘evolved zombie’ sideline they had going here, and rolled my eyes at some of the ‘alpha and his wife’ antics, but overall the storyline was hugely entertaining. Sure the daughters reasons for estrangement seem weird and nonsensical (‘you didn’t spend time with me so now I will not allow you to spend time with me’?) and the chances of there being a German ace safecracker in Vegas are slim, but any film featuring Garret Dillahunt and Theo Rossi has me there front and centre.
It would be easy to pick holes in this movie – the heist itself was a bit of a washout, the zombie melodrama was on the nose, the CGI was not always the most convincing, there were maybe too many characters, there was far too much slow motion gunplay for this little pacifists heart, and it wasn’t in any way scary; but so what. I enjoyed it, and for all the fuss about its runtime, I never once looked at my watch.
In fact, I’d watch it again, and for a two and a half hour movie about zombies, that’s pretty good going in my book.