While the zombie subgenre has been a staple of cinema dating back over 50 years, the 21st Century has arguably been its golden age in terms of nothing but sheer variety.
There are the comedic likes of Shaun of the Dead and the Zombieland duology, intense thrillers such as the pair of 28 Days and Train to Busan efforts, big budget blockbuster World War Z, rom-com Warm Bodies and even Maggie, the intimate character-driven drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a grieving father.
One of the best zombie movies of the modern era, though, is the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, which saw Zack Snyder make his feature directorial debut working from a script by James Gunn. It made over $100 million at the box office on a $26 million budget and drew strong reviews from fans and critics alike, and seventeen years later it still boasts a strong Rotten Tomatoes score of 75%, with audiences rating it at a marginally higher 77%.
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Snyder is making his return to the zombie wasteland in Netflix’s upcoming Army of the Dead, which sees an elite team of thieves and mercenaries stage a daring casino heist in the midst of an undead apocalypse. And in a new interview, the filmmaker compared the two projects and admitted that they shared a lot of DNA.
“I was trying as best I could to homage Dawn of the Dead, you know? It was more like reference to the original than it was a straight remake, which I find kind of a fun area to be in. And with this movie it’s a full genre exploration, the movie really was inspired by movies like Escape From New York, or Aliens, Cameron’s Aliens, Robocop, that world.
It’s very much a genre deconstruction in the sense that I love all the tropes, so I’m constantly trying to subvert the tropes by having them not finish as they would. So, you give them a ‘this is what would normally happen’ until you get all the energy moving in the direction of what the trope is and how the trope works in the genre and then you have to, at the last second, subvert it, so that it does something else and kind of links up with another one. So, in that way I think the movie has been slightly complicated in the rendering of that tone, that idea. It’s been really fun and rewarding and really cool.”
Of course, Army of the Dead is four times more expensive than Dawn and is much more of an action film than a horror thriller, but it’s nonetheless shaping up to be a massive success for Netflix with a prequel and animated series both on the way, as Snyder looks to prove himself once again when it comes to zombie-centric entertainment.