Back in 2004, the scariest take on zombies in movie history arrived on-screen by way of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. A remake of the George A. Romero classic, Dawn depicted zombies the way they were meant to be: a genuine threat. The zombies ran like Olympic sprinters and devoured flesh in frenzied attacks. “It made sense to me,” Snyder tells Men’s Health over Zoom. “If they can move a little, why can’t they move on a lot?” Now, Snyder is asking a more terrifying question in Netflix’s new Army of the Dead: if they can move a lot, why the hell can’t they mobilize?
Starring Dave Bautista, Omari Hardwick, and Tig Notaro (and directed, co-written, and produced by Snyder), the “zombie heist” film introduces a brand new category of zombie—faster, smarter, and more cunning. They’ve taken over Las Vegas and they’re looking to zombify more humans. We spoke to Snyder about the origin story of his zombie movie, plans for a prequel series, and how real-life politics inspired scenes in the film.
Hi Zack. I really enjoyed Army because the zombies aren’t just eating people. Do you think their intent is to take over the world?
It’s funny. Zeus is selective about who he turns into an Alpha. They bring him Cummings, and he’s like, okay, Cummings is fine. But also, when we see the zombie baby, I think the implication is that they no longer need us to procreate. In my mind, they’re just there to replace us.
Where do you think the original Alpha comes from? Is he a science experiment gone wrong? A result of another outbreak?
Funny you ask that. The animated series will tell the entire story. His name is Richards. We’ll find out exactly what happened to him and why he’s a zombie. It’s pretty bonkers.
What inspired the Alpha zombie for you then?
I had always had this idea of, like, a king zombie. I wanted to honor traditional shambler, but I [did] think we needed to kick it up a notch. That’s really where the Alphas came from.
I wonder why you chose Las Vegas of all places as the epicenter of it all.
From a social commentary standpoint, you know, our greatest hopes and our greatest fears lie within Las Vegas. Devil and Angel, heaven and hell. All those things. It’s incredibly compelling and incredibly scary.
I read that you guys filmed in an abandoned casino in Atlantic City. What was that like?
It was awesome. There [were] two casinos that we shot in. One was completely abandoned. When we were scouting, I remember we were basically with our flashlights and turning corners and saw the indoor swimming pool. And I was like, this is where the zombies live. This is the hive.
I have to imagine some scenes outside the walls of Las Vegas were inspired by real-life events and Trump’s presidency?
The best zombie movies have a lot of social commentary. You see Sean Spicer and Donna Brazile arguing about the politics of the wall. And when you hear the president saying that nuking Vegas will be, like, the ultimate fireworks show, I don’t think you have to work too hard to figure out who might say something like that.
I saw in a Vanity Fair interview that you always build a gym onset for your films.
I’m a gym rat. I have my weightlifting shoes on right now. We trained as a crew on Watchmen. On Sucker Punch, we had a massive gym. On Man of Steel, we [built] two gyms in Detroit. We had my gym where the crew would train with me, and then Henry [Cavill] had his gym. On Justice League, I built a massive gym in London. We would train every morning for shooting.
Do you think you can out-squat Henry Cavill?
No chance. He’s a squatter.
What’s the best part of working with Dave Bautista?
Dave is a kind guy. In every setup, he was always just eager and polite and just a nice person to be around and that’s a great thing because there’s a lot of pressure.
Since there’s an animated prequel series for Army planned, are there plans for a sequel?
I mean, we know what happens. I would love to do some more in this world.
Dawn of the Dead is one my favorite horror movies ever. What was your favorite experience from that shoot?
My favorite sequence was just the gunfight in the room where they had the baby. I just thought that was hilarious because they’re having this giant shoot out. I have a cameo at the beginning of the movie, too, in the opening title sequence. Me and my writing partner are the ones in front of the White House shooting zombies.
I think one of the most memorable scenes is actually in the credits. Do you think they survive after the camcorder drops?
I think they do. I think a couple of them get on a boat.
You obviously have a history of adapting so many graphic novels. Are there any stories left in that world you want to tell?
Elektra Lives Again. I would consider it if the opportunity arose, but I’m pretty happy right now working on this crazy zombie movie.
This interview was condensed for content and clarity.
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