Welcome back dungeon crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’ve been a bit busy this last month so haven’t posted as much as I would like but I’m back to review a pair of zombie films by the same director. My favorite movie monster (and the one I’m actually afraid of) is zombies. There are a million zombie films, shows, books and comic books out there so if you’re a zombie fan, there’s plenty of content to choose from. Zack Snyder has directed not one but two zombie films and although they are not directly related, they are both zombie films so I decided to watch them back to back to see if either one is worth watching. I’ve got my opinion on which one is the one to watch but there will be spoilers for both so you have been warned.
Dawn of the dead
Dawn of the Dead is a “remake” of the incredibly memorable and hard to find on streaming film of the same name. The original was directed by the king of zombies himself, George A. Romero. That film was groundbreaking in its use of the zombie film to make commentary on society and consumerism. In many circles the original film is considered to be one of the best if not the best zombie film ever made. I’m not sure I would go that far on the original but if you have not seen the original and you like zombie films, do what you need to in order to get your eyeballs on it, because it is worth watching.
The Zack Snyder directed remake released in 2004 is not what the original was by a long shot. It’s full of zombie action and gore, stars several of the original cast members in cameos and has a fantastic soundtrack. In other words, it’s all gloss and no substance. I can’t recall a single character name after watching it. There are definitely memorable scenes and I did enjoy the film as a whole but this is no transformative movie going experience. I’m not saying every zombie film should be an in-depth character portrayal that reflects the soul of our world back to us. I’m just saying it would be nice if the film didn’t feel like a ninety minute movie trailer where the best thing about it is each scene delivers a little more shock than the last.
Like the original, the central plot of this film is a group of people from different walks of life end up in a shopping mall at the end of the world and must rely upon one another if they want to survive. Because of some assumptions on the part of the characters there is a lot of conflict and it’s just as likely some of these people will die because of humans as they will from the zombies. The goal for the group is to survive and figure out how to escape the mall without losing their lives in the process.
There are some stand out stars in the film and as always Ving Rhames shines in his role. It’s entertaining to watch him blast zombies with cold hearted proficiency and be realistic enough to want to leave everyone because they are likely to get him killed. Of course he stays with the group.
There are plenty of plot holes in the film but I don’t really think that’s what makes this film disappointing. Rather, I think the problem with it is that it is in no way a new idea when it comes to horror or zombies or… anything. It might as well be a series of vignettes of what someone thinks might be needed to get audiences into theaters to watch a film. It does that job but barely. I’ve certainly seen worse zombie films but I have absolutely seen better. If you’ve seen every other zombie property under the sun and just need a little zombie fix, this film is serviceable, just don’t get too excited over it.
Now that I’ve laid out my feelings on Dawn of the Dead that leads me to….
army of the dead
Army of the Dead is an original film directed by Zack Snyder made for Netflix. It’s a heist film inside a zombie film and has a star line up including Dave Bautista, Tig Notaro and Ella Purnell.
It’s the end of the so-called “zombie wars” and there is only one hot zone left. Las Vegas is still teeming with the infected but the city has been walled off and is scheduled for nuclear destruction to finally rid the world of zombies.
In the opening sequence we see how the zombie infection originally spread and we see scenes of our cast of misfits kicking zombie butt. It’s a glossy sequence with an Elvis Presley song playing over it but in less than five minutes establishes a large cast of characters quickly and is done well. Soon we meet our heroes who are all living mundane lives again, despite their life saving actions during the zombie wars.
Scott Ward is making a living flipping burgers when a mysterious man offers him a job. There’s still a ton of money left in the Vegas casinos and if Scott and his team can recover it, they will be rich, no taxes to be paid on their earnings.
This sets up the heist adventure and allows the movie to have the required “getting the team together” scene. In this film, I really liked how that played out. Usually with these things there’s at least one character who has to think about it and is barely convinced to come despite all the good reasons for doing it. In this one everyone jumps at the chance and the sequence ends up not only being funny but unexpected.
I don’t want to spoil too much of this film but suffice it to say that there being zombies in the hot zone of Vegas where the characters need to be is not nearly the only threat. It turns out there are smarter, faster, and armed zombies here who have an army.
Things go awry and the team is going to have to try to escape.
Unlike Dawn of the Dead there are several quiet character moments. Some of them do seem rushed but overall I felt like I got to know at least a few of these characters and could understand why they were in the movie. And the way Tig Notaro played her character is going to go down in zombie film history as the perfect way to deliver dry, dead pan humor that works in a zombie film. She actually gets some of the best lines in the whole film.
Now, the idea of a heist film inside of a zombie film is not one hundred percent original, there have been other films that do something similar. The idea of smarter, faster zombies is not new either. But there is enough new or mashed up here that the film feels like an original idea. The action is good albeit predictable and it adds up to a really fun ride.
While this film may not be as worth watching as the original Dawn of the Dead it is absolutely worth watching.
If you’re trying to decide on Snyder’s zombie films go with Army of the Dead.
Do you have a favorite zombie film? If so, let me know what it is in the comments.