Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead

We don’t deserve a movie as outright cool, fun, entertaining and badass as Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead. Know how I know? Because of all the flagrant, inflammatory hate I’m seeing in discussion threads across the universe of social media, hate being doled out largely (not exclusively, before you lunge for my throat) by people who would have surely left this film alone and even enjoyed it if Snyder had nothing to do with it. Know how I know *that*? Just trust me, I know how these fuckwit Snyder hating trolls operate and I know it’s only because of his involvement that they are being this way. Anyways enough about them and onto the film, which is sensational and one of the best I’ve seen this year. Snyder sets the action in and out of a cordoned off Las Vegas where an undead outbreak several years before has decimated sin city and the zombies, unlike anything you’ve seen so far in the genre by the way, have taken up a sort of primordial tribal residence amongst the once glitzy landmark city. A Japanese billionaire (Hiroyuki Sanada) assembles a team spearheaded by Dave Bautista’ ex special forces short order cook to venture in and bust open a casino vault with millions inside, but is that what he’s really after? Bautista is wonderful and proves yet again what a talented presence he is on top of being a solid action dude. His character reconnects with an estranged daughter (Ella Purnell) who works inside the quarantine zone and here the film finds a pathos usually uncommon in this arena. Others in the cast make vivid impressions including Tig Notaro as a cavalier helicopter pilot, Mathias Schweighöfer as an adorably aloof safecracker, Theo Rossi as a despicably abusive government soldier, Ana de la Reguera as a fearsome warrior and perennial slime-ball Garrett Dillahunt as a smarmy private security expert with a shady agenda. My favourite was the lovely Nora Arnezeder as the aptly named Coyote, a highly trained scout who regularly ventures into the hot zone and serves as their guide, she brings a humanity and urgency to both her lines and action choreography that really struck a chord with me. The zombies are ruled by a sort of patient zero Alpha named Zeus, played ferociously by Richard Cetrome, who also played the leader of the pack Big Daddy Mars in John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars, a nice shoutout to a similarly maligned flick that actually totally rocks. Zeus has a Bride (Chelsea Edmundson) who for me was the most striking character in the film, a serpentine zombie queen with fiery contact lenses, a shrieking battle cry and wonderful physicality provided by model Edmundson. And yes there is a zombie tiger too, and yes she is one incredibly badass and beautifully rendered creature creation that is a highlight of the film. Look, this is a torqued up, totally ridiculous, hyper-stylized B movie about an outbreak in Vegas, wherein lies an undead jungle cat, zombies who ride skeletal horses and can both breed and have little zombie babies all wrapped up in a heist flick with a father daughter relationship, anti government undercurrents and more action that you can shake a severed head at, so if you’re trying to poke holes of logic and burrow for plot holes in a film that intrepidly incorporates all of that under one two and a half hour tent, well babe the only person you’re fooling is yourself. So what the story isn’t a succinct high-wire act of pushpin writing beats and realistic arcs? It’s a kickass old school horror flick with a huge cast, buckets of beautiful and strikingly graphic gore (eat your heart out, Bear attack scene from The Revenant), wonderfully unique mythology, dark humour, tons of gorgeous twilight and magic hour cinematography, splashes of genuinely affecting emotional work and a fucking zombie tiger named Valentine! So chill out. My top film of the year so far 🐅 🐯

-Nate Hill

William Kaufman’s Daylight’s End

The zombie genre is so saturated these days that most new entries just try and stir up the pot by default and do something innovative with the scenario, but it’s refreshing when a filmmaker goes for a simple, honest to goodness zombie film with little to no frills and we’re reminded of why we fell in love with the genre in the first place. William Kaufman’s Daylight’s End is an earnest, brutal and rousing undead post apocalyptic piece that benefits from a strong ensemble cast, wicked sharp tactical direction and a script that adds just the right amount of character work in between the gunplay and gore. Johnny Strong plays a lone gunslinger who bands together with a tight knit tribe of survivors protected by gruff leader Lance Henriksen, while undead forces gather against them and they try to fight their way out of a severely destroyed Dallas to somewhere safer. The only real deviation from classic zombie lore here is that these creatures can’t stand daylight and only come out when it’s dark, leaving the daytime scenes to have this eerie, desolate feel while most of the heavy action takes place atmospherically after dusk for a nice Vampirish flourish. Kaufman is a real master at staging tactical, realistic feeling action and as such blocks his actors, chooses his weapons and makes his kills feel exciting, propulsive and immediate. Strong is every inch action hero material, Henriksen makes a stoic and sage pack leader and surprisingly emotional work is provided by the usually cavalier Louis Mandylor as his son and top lieutenant. This is obviously a low budget film and one can see that but the story they’ve told and the world they’ve built using what they had is really impressive, and stands with some of the best zombie shoot-em-up’s out there. Check out Kaufman’s New Orleans set cop flick Sinners & Saints too, which also stars Strong as a relentless badass and also features flawlessly directed action scenes, they make a cool genre double feature together.

-Nate Hill