Zombies

In Army of the Dead, a Zombie Outbreak Becomes an Excuse for a Public Health Power Grab

In Zack Snyder's latest, zombies are a public health issue, much like COVID-19.

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If you think about it, zombies are a public health issue, much like COVID-19.

Like the coronavirus, zombieism is spread virally, with transmission via the mouth. The vector is biting rather than breathing, so a mask probably won't help you avoid catching the big Z—but a certain sort of extreme social distancing might. Either way, the main trick to avoiding infection is to stay sufficiently far away from people, or former people, who already carry the virus.

In the event of a zombie outbreak, then, there's little doubt that various government agencies would want to get in on the action, building border walls and enforcing quarantines under the guise of promoting public health—while actually seeking political control. And that's exactly what happens in Army of the Dead, in which a localized zombie outbreak turns into an excuse for a public health power grab.

The movie, which debuts on Netflix this weekend, begins when a mysterious specimen escapes after a military convoy crashes just outside of Las Vegas. The escapee is a hulking, inhuman brute who bites people, transforming the caravan of soldiers into undead menaces who go on to bite others, who go on to bite more people, and so on and so forth. Eventually, one presumes, an epidemiologist somewhere takes notice and starts to produce worrying-looking charts and graphs. Time for the lockdowns to begin!

They're zombies, in other words. If you're even vaguely familiar with the last 50 years or so of horror movies, you're probably familiar with how this concept works. But an outbreak of zombies is, of course, a viral outbreak not unrelated to the kind we've become all-too-familiar with over the last year and a half.

No, the initial convoy escape isn't quite a lab-leak scenario. But given that the patient zero appears to be an abnormally enhanced military secret, it's reasonable to suspect that there was some gain-of-function research going on. There isn't quite as much discussion of reproduction rates or daily new cases or the other stats and figures that have become routinized during our real-world pandemic. But based on the carnage we see on screen, you can assume that the infection fatality rate is pretty high.

Inevitably, the government steps in, sending in troops and then walling off a now-destroyed and zombie-infested Las Vegas, with a plan to nuke the entire city—on July 4th, no less—in order to end the menace once and for all. In politics, if nowhere else, walls and bombs are always viable solutions.

Meanwhile, just outside the city's barrier, the authorities have set up a mandatory quarantine zone for people who escaped Las Vegas and might have been exposed to the zombie virus. Ostensibly, the camp is a public health measure, defended—in an accurately annoying cable news debate between Sean Spicer and Donna Brazille—on the grounds that it's simply too risky to let even an unlikely exposure out into the wild. Even in a zombie outbreak, everyone's got a take. 

In reality, as the movie makes clear, the quarantine zone is a holding camp for political undesirables. The zombie outbreak has become a pretext for meting out politized punishments—none of which are actually related to public health—in the name of stopping the spread.

Director and co-writer Zack Snyder shot most of the film before COVID-19 hit the country, and he seems to have intended this as a kind of immigration metaphor, with the quarantine zone made to look like a long-term holding area for undocumented crossers. But in the aftermath of a pandemic that saw people confined to their homes, scenes in which camp guards wielding temperature guns threaten detainees who are obviously not infected take on a new metaphorical meaning.

"The first sign of infection is belligerence," one particularly odious guard tells a woman as she resists his sexual advances. He checks her temperature, then waits a tense moment before clearing her to go—making certain she knows her life is in his hands.

In the past, zombie movies have metaphorically commented everything from the soullessness of consumerism to race relations to international politics. This picture gives us a public health security state, with armed agents of the government acting in abusive ways for personal gain. Give security forces a slew of arbitrary and unsound rules to enforce, the movie seems to say, and the inevitable result will be abuses of that power. The movie's zombies, of course, present a very real and genuinely deadly threat. But the response at both the political and individual levels is to use that threat to gain power and lord it over others.

Somewhat frustratingly, the movie does little to develop these ideas after the first 40 minutes or so, preferring instead to dwell on an awkwardly paced plot to steal a mountain of cash from an underground safe before Vegas is nuked. There's an understandable but underdeveloped father-daughter subplot or two, and there's a lot of the visually striking, speed-ramped, slow-mo action that Snyder is known for. But beyond the energetically gory opening credits sequence, there's not much else to recommend in this overlong, underwhelming film. The movie just isn't as much fun as it thinks it is.

Army of the Dead starts with some genuinely interesting notions about how a localized, mostly contained undead outbreak might change America's politics, but it quickly devolves into a grimly zombified retread of both Ocean's 11 and Aliens that's neither as fun as the former nor as tense as the latter. What should be infectious fun turns out to be a grim and sickly drag.

NEXT: The California Exodus Is Real

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57 responses to “In Army of the Dead, a Zombie Outbreak Becomes an Excuse for a Public Health Power Grab

  1. Practice social distancing from zombies.

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  2. At least in the case of quarantining from a zombie outbreak the stakes are much higher. The mortality rate of a zombie bite is 100%, and you cannot rely on self-isolation once someone starts to show symptoms

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    2. They’re basically progressives.

      1. Nah. We don’t need to dehumanize people we disagree with.

  3. “undocumented crossers”

    Illegal aliens.

  4. If you have have ever walked through a modern homeless camp in the US or have witnessed aborigines when they are drinking in Austrailia, you become certain that zombies actually do exist.

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  5. >>What should be infectious fun turns out to be a grim and sickly drag.

    saturated market.

    1. Like the wet market next to the Wuhan Institute?

    2. > But beyond the energetically gory opening credits sequence, there’s not much else to recommend in this overlong, underwhelming film.

      So, much like the 15 day effort to “slow the spread” that lasted 15 months instead?

  6. I was at ShopRite last night and got bitched at by a woman who decided my mask wasn’t good enough (NJ’s edicts are still in place, fuck Phil Murphy).

    The zombies are already here.

    1. I try to fart as loudly and as obviously as I can in these situations. Both to get them away from me and to tell them I don’t give a shit, just a fart. Unfortunately once or twice I actually did give a shit.

      1. lol

      2. Never overtrust a fart…

    2. Should we instead shop online? Wait, was this not a bot post?

      1. I considered using another store name to avoid that confusion.

    3. It must have been hard for you to be treated rudely in public.

      Wanna talk about it? How did the customer’s rudeness make you feel?

      1. It made me feel like cracking her across the face, but there are cameras in the store.

        1. You were angry. I understand. We learn all these rules of good manners only to have some stranger violate them and ruin your day.

          You can cry. This is a safe space.

          1. As usual, you mischaracterize what we say. We’re not crybaby pussies. That’s you and your progtard friends. You lying piece of shit.

      2. And your comment has nothing to do with what I was talking about. But you knew that.

    4. Must be a sad state in New Jersey. Not just the policies but the people. I have friends in Jersey that I love dearly but they worship at the altar of Democrats. They adore Murphy, Cuomo and De Blasio.

      They sent me a video of Newark police patrolling the streets and barking commands to stay indoors from their patrol car speakers (this was near the beginning of lock downs) and loved it. Policing done right in their eyes.

    5. You should have borrowed from Tony’s strawman and pulled your mask down and coughed on her. Or, if you could manage it, forced yourself to vomit all over her.

  7. Sounds like a rip off of a 70’s movie called “The Crazies”.

  8. “and he seems to have intended this as a kind of immigration metaphor, with the quarantine zone made to look like a long-term holding area for undocumented crossers. But in the aftermath of a pandemic that saw people confined to their homes,”

    LOL, what do you want to bet that Snyder is unhappy that people are comparing this point of the movie with Lock Down policies. Even though the comparison is much more logical than the intended immigration metaphor.

    1. I’ve never thrived so much as when I was in lockdown. I’m sorry your experience was worse than that of a desperate family fleeing death squads only to find themselves in a racist, unwelcoming country.

      Introverts and extroverts, I guess.

      1. It’s easy for you. You live off the other people and have never been a productive person. And stop with your bullshit. You give no fucks about other people, especially refugees. Other than to use it to attack real humans.

        1. We all live off each other, and what counts as “productive” is in the eye of the beholder.

          Tucker Carlson inheriting his parents’ money and sitting on his ass telling you your real problem is trans college students is not a productive person, in my opinion. He’d be more productive if he were turned into soap.

          A sociopathic banker making money by selling you expensive and useless financial products, or a cop torturing people for a living, or a politician selling you tax cuts in exchange for genocidal fantasies–all less than useless, in my humble opinion.

          I get paid by a corporation to use my brain. They think I’m worth what I’m paid or more. I wish I could say the joke’s on them, but they’re getting a discount if I’m honest.

          Expand your horizons. You’re gonna die one day. Why waste a day of your life worrying about the moral fitness of other people you’ll never meet? Your morals are shit anyway.

      2. If the lockdowns were so great what is the rationale for all the Covid spending again?

  9. Great. Just what we need, a rationale for Liberals to shoot non-mask wearers in the head.

    1. “Dad, you just killed the zombie Flanders.” – Lisa
      “Flanders was a zombie?” – Homer

    2. Which would give the rest of us a rationale for shooting progs in the head.

      Sounds good to me. We’ve got all the guns.

  10. But an outbreak of zombies is, of course, a viral outbreak

    Not always. Sometimes it’s a comet.

    1. Sometimes it’s a comet, sometimes it’s radioactive contamination, sometimes it’s viral contamination, sometimes it’s religious/Voodoo.

    2. Sometimes, there’s just no more room in Hell…

        1. Must have dropped the damn Link.

        2. Biden invited them.

    3. And the zombie threat is always exaggerated.
      It’s like facing an army of unarmed peasants in the Total War game series. All you have to do is funnel them into a location where your superior weaponry negates their superior numbers. And make sure you burn your dead so they don’t join the other side.

      Which is why The Walking Dead was always laughable. Any reasonably sized group of adults working together could defeat them with medieval level technology (spears and moats and wooden forts.)

      1. Eh, that matters little to me. Zombies were not the interesting nor alarming element of the story. I was more interested in how modern society cannot function without technology and processed food. They are living in a world that is still more advanced than what most humans in history experienced and the modern human cannot live in said environment.

      2. And flame throwers. Then again you have flaming zombies which is worse.

      3. And animated corpses would break down pretty quickly when moving. With no ability to regenerate tissue. 99% of the walkers would deteriorate to immobility with days to weeks.

  11. Meanwhile, just outside the city’s barrier, the authorities have set up a mandatory quarantine zone for people who escaped Las Vegas and might have been exposed to the zombie virus. Ostensibly, the camp is a public health measure

    Sounds familiar.

  12. There isn’t quite as much discussion of reproduction rates or daily new cases or the other stats and figures that have become routinized during our real-world pandemic. But based on the carnage we see on screen, you can assume that the infection fatality rate is pretty high.

    Assuming infection rates without evidence is anti-Science and racist.

  13. The movie sounds like another Idiocracy – an excellent concept with mediocre execution.

  14. “What should be infectious fun turns out to be a grim and sickly drag.”

    That’s an apt description of most of Zack Snyder’s films.

  15. A blade never needs reloading.

    Max Brooks

    1. Excellent book… too bad the movie had so little to do with it.

  16. Was looking forward to this, generally a big Zack Snyder fan. His command of visuals is very compelling. But the movie looks like shit and the story is worse. Just bad on many levels.

  17. The dollar survives the zombie apocalypse? Talk about a libertarian fantasy.

    1. Fortunately, progs wouldn’t. Weak soyboys hiding behind government would be wiped out immediately.

      1. Explain to me why all of a sudden the redneck choads who worship Trump will agree with the medical establishment about what the problem is?

        If past is prologue, it sure as fuck seems like you idiots will be rushing to be the first to get bit out of a woefully misguided sense of cultural entitlement.

        1. You’re the idiots. We’ve been right the entire time.

          1. Does the screeching douchebag on OANN tell you that?

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