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‘Army of the Dead’ Movie Review.

Army of the Dead is an exciting (and controversial) rock n roll thrill ride sweeping across a zombie-infested Las Vegas! At its core, this is a bank heist film with plenty of twists, turns, and WTF was that kind of moments. Zack Snyder throws his motley band of heroes – led by Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy 1, 2, Avengers: Infinity War) – directly into the rotting heart of the apocalypse. 

The movie is jam-packed with Easter Eggs and a lot of love for classic horrors from the past and packs a lot of (bite) punch for horror fans to enjoy. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Stakes are high and is the temptation of a few billion dollars really worth risking their lives against a zombie army? Stick around as we get deep and dirty into Army of the Dead and the road that led up to it!  

Reviving the Dead circa 2003

When I heard Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Justice League) was returning to the zombie field I was immediately intrigued. Snyder began his career with the zombie apocalypse so it was exciting to wonder what he had to bring to the genre that debuted his style, art, and themes.  

via Universal Pictures, ‘Dawn of the Dead’

It’s hard to believe how vastly popular zombies are today considering – not too long ago at all – there was a considerable lack of zombie movies. Some of our readers will know what I’m talking about. I mean it almost felt like the zombie genre was almost taboo. The sub-genre was something dirty that nobody wanted to soil their careers with and so the undead were as good as dead. 

I don’t think it’s out of line to propose that had it not been for Capcom’s Resident Evil games during the ‘90s zombies may have never been on anyone’s mind at all. But video games were proving that there was still some life stirring in the ghastly genre perfected by George Romero

And then they came crawling out of their graves to take the world by storm. I don’t know if the hyper paranoia of the dawning new millennium had anything to do with it, and, let’s be honest, it could be that entirely now that I’m looking back at it. Because as soon as 2000 rolled around the zombie film was resurrected. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

And why wouldn’t it? Prophecy pushers were telling everybody that as soon as the clock clicked midnight and 1999 ended so would the world. We would be plunged into frenzied hysteria as machines turned against us and we fell back into a modern stone age. The world would end, Jesus was coming back, and electronics were gonna go KABOOM! 

Obviously, none of that happened but the apocalypse was still heavily on everyone’s subconscious. It was the perfect breeding ground for zombie movies. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

I also don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a few movies, two, in particular, were responsible for reviving the living dead at the dawn of the new millennium. Those movies being 28 Days Later (2003) and the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004). 

Already collecting criticism and controversy over his debut, Snyder’s DOTD had fans of Romero’s horror classic furious that anyone could dare remake it. And, to the surprise of many, DOTD was an international success! People were not just talking about zombies but were foaming at the mouth about them! Smartly, Snyder’s movie does not feel like a shot-for-shot remake, and had it been given another name it may have won over even more fans upon its release. But outside of a story about a group of survivors taking refuge inside of a mall, it has nothing in common with the Romero classic. 

And, like 28 Days Later, it bared its teeth and furthered the idea of running zombies. These two films made the living dead even more challenging by giving them rushing bull-like speed as they chased down their unsuspecting victims who woke up to a dangerous new world where the grave was no longer safe. 

via Universal Pictures, ‘Dawn of the Dead’

Some people hated the concept but many were thrilled by it. And please don’t judge me too harshly but I’m one of those who really enjoyed DOTD. It definitely got me excited for zombies all over again. 

The zombie movie was back and it was taking no prisoners. 

Since then we’ve had the global success of The Walking Dead and it’s easy to say zombies have become a permanent fixture in pop culture’s heart. We even had a zombie rom-com that is…well yeah whatever. But what I wanted to know was could anyone bring something fresh and original to a subgenre that’s been shoved through the industrial meat processer and flushed onto home video, streaming services, and cinemas. Was there still anything new to bring home to the genre, kinda like what DOTD helped do with those screaming running horrors? 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Army of the Dead says ‘hold my beer.’

Right off the bat, we’re shown an army convoy heading out of Area 51, and to drive the idea home there are two glowing UFOs in the distance, hovering silently and possibly watching the convoy before flashing skyward and utterly disappearing. I didn’t even notice the UFOs upon my initial watch but couldn’t deny them the next time around.  

Something about seeing two UFOs at the start of a zombie movie makes it eerie, like great old X-Files episodes. It tells us to expect the unexpected. 

The precious cargo being hauled across the desert via army convoy is none other than the Alpha, a new being of what can presumably be a super soldier gone wrong (or right?). Irreverently the mission comes to an abrupt end thanks to some unforeseen road head, and, you guessed it, the Alpha is released and proves to be far more formidable than any of the trained military troops are prepared to handle. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

This is a movie that calls its audience a pussy if they’re not ready for the kind of experiences it has in store. As we’re introduced to Zeus, the alpha zombie, the start of a new kind of species, he rips, tears, and shreds his path through armed soldiers as he reforms their flesh, tainting their DNA with his own malignance, and builds his very own army. Zeus defies death and spreads disease wherever he goes. He then sets his eyes on the bright lights of Las Vegas and the intro credits begin. 

This movie starts right off with the middle finger and tells us this isn’t like what we’ve seen before. And let’s be honest, us zombie movie fans have seen A LOT! We have the likes of George Romero, Lucio Fulci, and Stuart Gordon. And know what? I’m gonna include Sam Rami even though his beasties are Deadites. The point being they were demon zombies or the Evil Dead. They were the dead brought back to life. 

My point is thanks to past zombie movies we’ve seen some crazy ass shit. I mean we’ve seen a zombie fight a shark under the ocean, zombies got on intercoms to call in more cops just to have more brains to eat, and Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) chainsawed his dead girlfriend’s head off, and then she danced for him. We love crazy shit in zombie movies, those happy little scenes that come out of nowhere and rip our faces off. Those are the moments we talk about, the moments that make these movies classic. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Oh yeah, and who can forget when a dead head gave Barbara Crampton head in Re-Animator

Us Drive-In Mutants eat this kind of stuff up! 

Army of the Dead gives us possible alien zombies. Imagine if Area 51 decided to fuck around with DNA splicing between an alien and a human. Well, that’s where Zeus (possibly, strong possibility) comes in. The super-soldier, the alpha zombie to kick-start Armageddon just because he can.  

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

But that’s not anywhere near enough though! Oh hell no. Then, like a sumbitch, the movie goes and throws friken cyborg zombies at us out of the clear blue! Then, once the initial WTF wears off, we’re left begging for more of that shit. And no, that wasn’t your imagination. Zac Snyder’s gone on record and insists there are legit robot zombies in the film and we will get to explore what that’s all about in the upcoming Army of the Dead anime movie. Holy shit! 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

But scattered across the dead streets of Las Vegas are Romero-like zombies called Shamblers. They’re a little dried out thanks to the Nevada sun but once it rains they come back to life for a few hours. So people who hated the fast zombies get their tried and true classic shambling zombie horde.  

But that’s just it. There are classes among the zombies. The shambling dried out ones who cluttered around the gates … oh yeah. Las Vegas has been walled off by shipping containers to keep the zombie legions locked in. But this is no prison, oh no. That’s too simple. Vegas has become a zombie kingdom ruled over by Zeus and his zombie bride. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

So yes, this is a movie that dares to have different kinds of zombies all living together in a zombie kingdom ruled over by an intellectual class of the undead who strictly monitor the happenings both within and outside of their boundaries. Did you get that? There are intelligent zombies in this movie!

Zombies that can reason things out, communicate, make decisions and strategize. WTF, Snyder? Horror fans only expect so much out of a zombie movie and you go and slam down a sledgehammer on those very expectations. The film keeps giving us glimpses into a much broader lore than anticipated. With promises a future films in the making to further explore that lore. So what we see here is only the tip of the iceberg for what’s developing into a very interesting new zombie saga.

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

I don’t have enough fingers to type all this out fast enough and I’m trying to condense this review, but there’s so much to cover! I mean I just told you this movie has a zombie monarchy! And with the higher functioning zombies, it almost feels like a sense of telekinesis is shared. Maybe? But whatever the case these guys can and do communicate. This movie introduces a group of undead who are organized, structured, and driven by purpose. That makes them very scary and very dangerous. 

And just because we’re in Las Vegas we also get a zombie tiger. Oh, my unholy hell a zombie tiger that is infinitely cool! 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Now all I want is for NECA to take note and let me have that zombie king astride his zombie horse (oh yeah, there’s that too) with his zombie tiger. My horror figure shelf is needing all that right now. 

Add to that a proposed infinite time loop that traps the heroes in an endless pursuit within the zombie kingdom with no escape outside of a gruesome death. It’s very likely these heroes are doomed to repeat their fatal decisions over and over, facing new deaths but no closure as they gradually draw closer and closer to reaching their goals. So the question is will they finally (if ever) escape from this grizzly fate?

Holy shit! There’s some heavy stuff in this zombie film!

If this was a video game I’d be on my feet and starving myself to death until completing every single mission. 

This movie is heavy metal and brutal to the bleeding core. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Needless to say, this is one helluva wild zombie movie, one we’ve been due for a long time now. It’s something to shake up the genre and informs us all that there’s so much more to be explored with tired and used zombie formulas. 

Criticism explored

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

It’s no secret people love to hate Zack Snyder and the haters are out in full force. The same people who accuse this movie of being a direct rip-off of Aliens will also praise the pants off of Star Wars. Meanwhile, George Lucas has gone on record to claim SW is nothing more than a direct rip-off of classic Japanese Samurai films. There’s nothing new under the sun and directors will repeat formulas that inspired them. It may only be a subconscious thing, or maybe it’s deliberate. 

Bottom line there are a lot of movies – films we all love to this day – that are guilty of this.

Let’s get this straight though. This movie is not Citizen Kane we’re talking about. It’s a bank heist zombie gore film using a fusion of action-adventure/horror/sci-fi elements. It was made to be fun and entertaining. And it does its job right. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Like I said some people love to hate Zack Snyder and are already predisposed to find fault and flaws in anything he does. I mean they hate his guts and act like he walked into their parent’s house and punched their mothers right in the face. 

If you do hate his movies but like horror films, especially stuff like Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, and Evil Dead (you know the fun ones) then you won’t want to miss out on this one. See it for what it is. A brand new zombie film that introduces some fresh elements to the genre. 

via Netflix, ‘Army of the Dead’

Now I’m ready for NECA to make me that zombie king on his zombie horse with his zombie tiger! 

Do it violently! 

Godzilla and his timeless reign over our hearts!

Horror fans are always asked what initially got them into the genre, and each one of us has a different answer. For some, it was Jaws, or Gremlins, or maybe Freddy. We all have that one quid essential monster that served as a gateway to the incredible world of beasties. For me, it was none other than the King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla. 

Godzilla may have entered our world in 1954 but he didn’t crash into my life until 1983-84. I was just a toddler and upon seeing the radioactive behemoth my imagination was awakened!

Oh, hells yeah! The time has finally come for me to talk about Godzilla, the Monster of Monsters! I’m lucky enough to remember – all be it briefly – all the way back to some of my earliest days on this planet. I’m like 3 or something and my little Manic nose is glued to the TV screen while TOHO’s giants are tearing one another to pieces over the fate of the Earth. The earliest films I remember ever watching are firstly Godzilla vs Mothra and then soon afterward King Kong vs Godzilla. Interestingly, I was going over this with my mom and she confirmed that Godzilla vs Mothra was one of the very first movies I ever watched and began mimicking. 

I’ve always loved Godzilla – as if you couldn’t tell by now. I mean just look! Look at little me romping around in my very own homemade Godzilla costume! 

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, ‘Godzilla: Destroyer of Worlds” circa 1984

My Granny spent God knows how many hours at the sewing machine to make this dream come true and my Mom had one Hell of a time trying to get me out of it. Once I had that on I no longer existed. A perfectly harmonies symbiotic relationship between myself and Godzilla was formed while I had that on, the two of us became one, and woe to all who stood in our way. 

Sadly I outgrew that little costume but neither my love nor passion for the King of the Monsters could be diminished. This particular fandom though was not met without its fair share of challenges. One of the chief being the sheer scarcity of these movies back then! 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Mothra’

Things weren’t like they are today. There were no streaming services. We had three channels. Three! If you were a kaiju fan while growing up in the mythical ‘80s you were lucky AF if your local horror host aired one of Godzilla’s movies during their Saturday late-night specials. TV guides were bought primarily so kids could bug the crap out of their parents on whether or not any Godzilla or King Kong movies would be on that upcoming week. Sometimes you’d luck out and there would be a giant monster movie! It felt like some kind of reward for all our patience. 

Thanks to TV special airings I was able to get Godzilla vs King Kong , Godzilla vs Megalon, and Godzilla vs Monster Zero recorded on tape to watch as many times as my psychotic little heart could handle! 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs Monster Zero’

And it wasn’t like you could just go to K-Mart and find copies on video. So fans could only rely on the movies they were lucky enough to record off TV. Although, I do remember one Christmas morning very vividly. So there I was greedily tearing away wrapping paper from all the goodies Santa brought me when I came across an obvious shoe box.

I remember being disappointed already before even removing the colorful wrapping paper and just sitting it to the side. What little boy wants a pair of bleeping shoes on Christmas? But my mom – being the psychotic mastermind she is – insisted I open it. Reluctantly I did, but what was awaiting me was not a boring old pair of sneakers, but 4, oh hell yeah, 4 Godzilla movies. I still own them. Among them being Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla and Godzilla vs Gigan! These videotapes were treasures to a fan like me! 

image courtesy of Manic Exorcism, circa 1989

This lack of movies also meant if you found a copy at your local video rental you were about to have a really good weekend. It was almost like a sacred quest and no less ambitious than any adventure Indiana Jones ever went on. We were kinda like paleontologists digging through movie shelves trying to discover just a single copy of a movie we (oh dear God, please oh please) had not already seen.  

I remember my cousin and me storming through one video store to the next just trying to get a copy of one of these monstrous relics. And then one Friday it finally happened! The stars came into alignment, God was merciful, or maybe Cthulhu was having a good dream, but, whatever the reason, there it was! A mother-loving Godzilla movie we had never seen yet – Godzilla vs the Smog Monster!!!

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs the Smog Monster’

I think we watched that movie every single chance we had. Like soon as it ended we would rewind it just to hit play again. I remember we even tried to get a video camera out and film ourselves making fun of the movie by adding our own little quips and inputs to ‘enhance’ the dialogue and greatly entertain ourselves. Yup, we had the idea for MST3K before Tom Servo or Crow ever sat front row to do what we loved them for. 

Another challenge was, well, just being a fan for the sake of being a fan. Being a Godzilla fan was almost like an underground thing.

There weren’t many people back then who loved the big guy like the few of us did. As result, there just wasn’t a market for it so collecting Godzilla stuff was nearly impossible. 

Today all you have to do is go to Target and you’ll find lots of amazing Godzilla stuff – mostly thanks to NECA. It’s a very different world from the one I grew up in and that’s a great thing!

Image courtesy of Toho

People my age can now easily find copies of these incredible movies to show their own kids and there are so many toys to now collect. We may have grown up but we have every right to play Godzilla with our little ones and spread that love to the next generation. Isn’t it amazing how that turned out?

It’s a good time to be a Godzilla fan. What with the new movies being released by Legendary that gives us a faithful upgrade to the Showa Era monsters we grew up with. 

image courtesy of Legendary, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

The Criterion Collection just recently released the entire Showa Era Godzilla collection on Blu-ray meaning all those movies that we might have missed out on seeing are now available!  

And I can’t believe that I now own a bona fide Godzilla figure from the very movie that got me into this whole giant monster craze, Godzilla vs Mothra. The details of the figure are uncanny. It’s like it was taken straight out of the classic film. I now own 6 different NECA Godzilla figures alone! It’s a new sickness that I’m convinced my loved ones will initiate a well-planned intervention for me soon. 

So here we are. Nearly 40 years later and still I’m a fan of the King of the Monsters, a title he has rightfully earned over the years. The greatness of Godzilla isn’t simply found in one movie, or even in a series of movies. It is how one single idea about identifying the nuclear age in the body of a new cinematic monster has gone above and beyond TOHO’s wildest dreams.

image courtesy of Toho, ‘Gojira’

Godzilla is a cultural phenomenon and unites people from all walks of life. He’s such a big deal in Japan that there’s a place for him at the Museum of Japanese History. 

So he might not have been the first giant monster to awe audiences but ever since his appearance in ’54 he’s taken the world by storm. He’s inspired a massive franchise that is still ongoing to this day.

The latest TOHO installment was Shin Godzilla back in 2016 and returned Godzilla back to his destructive roots. He’s seen as a plague of sorts upon a world of carelessness towards nature. 

Image courtesy of Toho, ‘Shin Godzilla’

This time around Godzilla appears in three evolutionary stages. The third and primary stage gives him this sickly macabre look some fans call ‘Zombie Godzilla.’ It’s a dark commentary on Japan’s politics during times of crisis and is a special effects masterpiece. A must-watch for hardcore fans!

Currently, on Netflix, there is a three-part Godzilla anime for fans to enjoy. Though there have been other animated representations of Godzilla this is in fact the first anime he’s ever had. 

I already mentioned how Legendary has given the Godzilla universe a very respectful and epic American update to the King of the Monsters. There are currently 3 movies in this new MonsterVerse:  Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).

Image courtesy of Toho and Legendary, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ and ‘Godzilla vs King Ghidorah’

As someone who’s been watching Godzilla movies since before I had a fully formed vocabulary I can say I genuinely love what Legendary is doing with these big guys. We’re all waiting for the next installment, Godzilla vs Kong which was slated to show this year but with COVID19 we’ll have to wait and see what happens. 

Godzilla has been the representation of nuclear terror, an unstoppable force risen against all humanity, a monster without pity or compassion. He has also stood tall as a symbol of hope as he withstood the odds and protected the Earth from extraterrestrial invaders bent on destroying the planet.

Over the years he’s been our reckoning and our protection, a destroyer and a savior, two sides of the same coin. He’s starred in over 30 movies and shows no signs of slowing down. 

image courtesy of Playmates Toys, ‘Godzilla vs Kong’

In some cases, he is a nuclear-enhanced dinosaur. Sometimes he’s a mystery risen from the sea. And he’s even been a surviving titan come back from a prehistoric time to face the newly awakened challenges threatening our world today. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Ok I know, I know! I gotta stop already or this could go on forever. People familiar with my writing know how much I love Hellraiser and Dracula, but had it not been for Godzilla I have to wonder if I would have as much admiration for Pinhead or the vampiric Count? Godzilla was my gateway monster and has remained a trusted constant in my life.

Godzilla is timeless. 

image courtesy of Toho, ‘Godzilla vs the Astral Monster,’ victory dance

So hey if you crave all those warm retro feels and want more Godzilla goodness stay tuned and follow us here where nightmares and nostalgia are explored.  

Have a favorite Godzilla or kaiju memory and would like to share with us? Let us know down in the comments below.

Manic Exorcism