“On a warm summer’s evening, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler, we were both too tired to sleep. So we took turns at staring out at the darkness at the window, till boredom overtook us and he began to speak… ((Chorus)) You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em… know when to fold ‘em! Know when to walk away… and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done!” Lyrics excerpted from “The Gambler” by country music singer Kenny Rogers — November 1978.
With this classic country ditty playing as background trailer fodder, we are introduced to the latest film in the zombie genre, Zac Snyder’s 2021 zombie heist film: Army of the Dead. Since the movie is set in an enclosed, quarantined, undead infested Las Vegas the tune seems rather fitting. Things tend to roll downhill sideways from there…
SPOILER ALERT!!! Because we are about to spoil the hell out of this mess.
There is a basic formula for zombie movies and it goes like this:
1. Initial Infection: Some films delve into this; it’s interesting but irrelevant — there is no cure for being dead so finding out where it came from won’t help.
2. Mass Outbreak: Just about everybody dies and reanimates.
3. Zombies: Shambling, mindless and slow, but infinite in number. In this was the horror — dealing with an endless plethora of undead tirelessly brain munching cannibals.
4. Survivors: Now the film’s creative purpose is to select a select group of survivors and tell how they survive.
5. Everybody Dies: because eventually they would….there is no escape.
Or you could just change all the rules and start making s*** up like Mr. Snyder has done. With what will surely later be referred to as the Twilight era of the zombie film genre. How many licks does it take to get to the rotten center of this Tootsie Pop…let’s find out…
Zombies come from Area 51? Isn’t that like the go-to for alien films? Though not explained in the film, in an interview Mr. Snyder tells us there is alien involvement… in his zombie outbreak? And look, patient zero has dog tags. A Captain America wanna be volunteered to be shot-up with alien DNA and voila — zombie? We’ll let that slide and just bear in mind these are alien-zombies (zombiens?) we’re dealing with.
These zombiens are faster, stronger and more intelligent than the undead we’re used to. That’s not really unexpected — the entire genre has been evolving in that direction. But to propose a hierarchy with a King and Queen zombien reigning over an undead society with rules about who, what, where and when to eat? All communicated by shrill screams and clicks… like velociraptors?
Oh well, long LIVE the zombien king… because apparently he’s not all dead? His hair grows and he can reproduce… WTF??? Necrophilia at its finest? Well the zombien queen is kinda hot to trot without a lot of rot. And he will need an heir to eventually rule over the ROBOT ZOMBIES?
Yes, there are robot-alien-zombies (zombienbots?) in this film. And this is officially so f***ing stupid that nothing can redeem it… except maybe a zombie tiger…
Formerly of the Siegfried & Roy Vegas act, “Valentine” the white zombie tiger, is the highlight of this film. There is no denying the badassery at work here. However, cross species contamination and who in hell bit and infected a friggin’ tiger does come into question. There’s a zombie horsey, too, but nobody give a poot about that.
Though the film’s initial plot of a team attempting to retrieve $2,000,000 from a zombie-infested Vegas strong hold (not to mention a potential time loop) is intriguing, entertaining and filled with dark humor, the aforementioned factors, multiple side-sub-plots and a 2+ hour run time make the film almost unbearable.
By the film’s end the best zombie survival advice offered comes symbolically from where it began: You’ve gotta know when to hold’em — for a head shot. Know when to fold’em — take a body shot. Know when to walk away…or know when to run. You never count your ammo when you’re surrounded by zombienbots. There’ll be time for body countin’… if you survive Valentine’s day.
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