Zombie flicks have been entertaining us since, well, the dawn of the dead, but for the most part there’s a massive flaw in the plot: surely any human being could out-run the shuffling, half-dead creatures?
Eventually, the brain-eating creatures began to pick up speed. The first instance of the zombie breaking out into a little jog is arguably by the godfather of zombie films, George A. Romero, in his Night of The Living Dead (1968). By the time of the 2004 remake of his film Dawn of the Dead, and by way of 28 Days Later (although some say the virus victims aren’t technically zombies), World War Z, Train To Busan and Shaun Of The Dead; the undead could practically take on Usain Bolt.
It’s a trope that Zack Snyder - who directed the remake of Dawn of the Dead - takes on once again in his new film, Army of the Dead. In the apocalyptic zombie-heist film (there’s a lot going on in this one) the creatures are divided into two tribes: The Alphas and The Shamblers. But what’s the hierarchy and what was Snyder gunning for in his dystopian hellscape?
A botched military mission from Area 51 at the start of the camp and gory film sees a sprinting zombie escape from a secure (hah!) container into Las Vegas. “This is so not OK,” one of the soldiers comments. Mate, it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse. This sub-human creature is Zeus, and anyone he attacks rises from the dead with amber-flashing eyes, thirsty for even more human blood.
Over time, the entirety of Sin City becomes zombie-fied, leading the government to quarantine the entire gambling city, leaving it to its destruction. By the time our hero, Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) is persuaded to head up a heist to steal $200 million from a casino safe before Vegas is nuked into oblivion, the zombies have split firmly into two camps. Alphas and Shamblers.
Syder, speaking as part of the film’s launch, explained: “The way it works is that Zeus is the Alpha who comes from Area 51, he’s sort of a patient zero. If he bites you directly, you become an Alpha. Alphas are fast. They can think, they can take orders, they’re organised. We treat them like a pack of wolves, you can’t really reason or talk to them, but they certainly will circle you, they know how to fight and hunt.
“But if an Alpha other than Zeus bites you, you become a Shambler. And if another Shambler bites you, you become a Shambler.” Ultimately, it’s almost a moot point as you wouldn’t want to come face to face with either of them.
Working underneath Zeus is an Alpha - described as “straight out of your fucking nightmares” by one character - known as The Bride, who selects people for Zeus to infect, making their tribe bigger and stronger, whereas the Shamblers are somewhat the underdogs. The Shamblers are a more retro type of undead that we’re used to. Snyder adds: “If you see a zombie movie, normal Shamblers, it's like a normal zombie, they kind of move slowly.” The only way of defeating both these gangs of undead is also a classic solution: blow their brains out.
Snyder added that Army Of The Dead is his own unique take on the genre: “I had the idea from the beginning that these zombies were going to embody an evolution, that they were on their way to becoming something else, not stagnant like the zombies we’re used to.
“It was a way to make them fresh while still delivering the zombie canon in some way.”
Army Of The Dead is streaming on Netflix now.
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