Army Of the Dead's Zombies Are Organizing

Undead laborers.
Undead laborers.
Screenshot: Netflix

There are many corporations that work hard to keep workers from unionizing, and Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead appears to be a zombie movie attempting to explain the most important reason why: there’s power in numbers.

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Fresh off the heels of Zack Snyder’s Justice League’s truly surprising all right-ness, Netflix dropped Army of the Dead’s full trailer this week and gave the world a look at the director’s vision for an apocalyptic world besieged by the undead—save for a handful of living survivors. In between the frantic, fast-paced shots of mayhem, the trailer establishes a few key elements about Army of the Dead’s plot that follows Dave Bautista as Scott Ward leading a band of mercenaries paid by Hunter Bly (Westworld’s Hiroyuki Sanada) to rob a zombie-infested casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It’s unclear just what exactly humanity’s meant to do with a treasure trove of poker chips, or whatever other valuables one might expect to find hidden away within a glitzy gambling den. What’s rather fascinating, though, is the level of intelligence and social interaction it depicts Army of the Dead’s zombies as having. In addition to the typical flesh-eating horde you typically see in these sorts of movies, once Scott and the other humans venture outside of the relative safe zone that’s been established in the ongoing apocalypse, they see that the zombies have apparently formed a social order of their own.

One bejeweled zombie stands out in the trailer, both because of the very Scarlet Witch-like headdress the former showgirl sports and because of how her purposeful screams seem to be a form of intentional communication that the other zombies understand. Save for the recent resurgence of slow-moving zombies thanks to The Walking Dead, the only thing that’s really kept humans alive in most modern zombie stories is their superior logic skills that gave them the ability to think through dire situations. But the shots of zombies riding horses, holding one another, and coming together to rally give a different sort of subtext to Lily’s (Nora Arnezeder) observation that the undead are organized in a way that makes them infinitely more dangerous than “normal” zombies.

A zombified Sokovian fortune teller.
A zombified Sokovian fortune teller.
Screenshot: Netflix

Army of the Dead follows in the footsteps of movies like George Romero’s Day of the Dead and Colm McCarthy’s The Girl With All the Gifts, both of which presented the idea of the apocalypse giving rise to a new form of intelligent zombie (or infected person) with the potential to become the new dominant species on the planet. That idea’s always been an important part of the post-Romero zombie genre’s use of zombies as a metaphor for humanity’s mass consumption that leads to society’s collapse.

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But the vaguely revolutionary way that Army of the Dead’s first trailer frames its ghouls makes their organization feel like something more than just the obstacle that’s going to lead to some humans getting their throats torn out—they have goals outside of mindless eating. Whatever it is that Bly wants from that casino, he’s not willing to risk his own life for it, but he knows that waving a few million dollars in front of Scott is all it takes to get what he wants. The trailer doesn’t say much about what sort of power dynamics exists within Army of the Dead’s titular corps, but it does emphasize that the undead are all very much on the same page when it comes to how they deal with humans of all classes.

At some point, Army of the Dead’s zombies realized that working together to take over Las Vegas and gobble up humans was in their collective best interest. To what end? That remains to be seen, but while the movie’s money-dependent humans might not realize how formidable a foe that makes Army of the Dead’s zombies, it’s something that should be abundantly apparent when Netflix serves the movie up for consumption (alongside a limited theatrical release on May 14) on May 21.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

DISCUSSION

It’s unclear just what exactly humanity’s meant to do with a treasure trove of poker chips, or whatever other valuables one might expect to find hidden away within a glitzy gambling den

Didn’t the trailer make it clear that they’re stealing millions of cash from a vault? Casinos need tons of cash on hand for day to day gambling, it’s kind of an established macguffin at this point.