Taste is for other people
Zack Snyder’s zombie tigers
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As always, I am and — much to my chagrin — will be Michael Sun, the Netflix Culture Editor at Junkee, and I unpack a new Netflix title and some miscellaneous brain worms here every week. If you like this sort of thing and haven’t already, subscribe!
It has been three weeks of this newsletter and it feels like all we have talked about is how camp things are, which is not about to stop. This week, it’s Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s latest OTT extravaganza and cinematic equivalent of that Horse_ebooks tweet: “Everything happens so much”. It’s zombies, it’s a heist, it’s Las Vegas, it’s a sinner, it’s a saint, it does not feel ashamed!
Army of the Dead
Last week I said that The Woman in the Window was my Snydercut, but this past week I have been thinking about an actual Snyder cut that I could also classify as my Snydercut, and that movie is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Like all movies I watched from the ages of 11 to 14, Sucker Punch is a movie that I was allowed to watch too young, but thank god I was. It had everything: steampunk stylisation, ultra-violent revenge scenes, five women with names like Babydoll and Blondie breaking out of a psychiatric institution. It had...inexplicably...dragons??!! It starred Emily Browning (!) and Abbie Cornish (!!) and pre-fame Oscar Isaac (!!!). Everyone in the movie looked permanently like they had just stepped out of an Annie Leibovitz shoot. Sucker Punch was camp, which is a word I use too often and mostly incorrectly, but it is true here.
By all accounts, he is back in full throttle this weekend with Army of the Dead. The throttle in question: an outlandish concept committed to so fully, so feverishly, so extravagantly it just might work. The Army in question: a horde of intelligent zombies standing in the way of a $200 million heist. (The Dead in question: you, after watching.)
Much like Sucker Punch — and the tried and true Snyder classics 300 and Watchmen — Army of the Dead is doing the absolute most at any one time, inhaling the tropes of every film which came before it and dialling them up to off-Richter levels. There are shades of everything from Dawn of the Dead to Ocean’s 11 here, but to describe this film in terms of what cinema has been doesn’t quite do justice to its vision of what cinema could be: one in which concepts of good and bad taste give way to a breakneck genre collision which hits too fast, and too hard for any kind of over-intellectualisation.
Taste is for other people, anyway; Snyder’s world is composed of pure, unashamed stimulation, one in which watching a group of 11 mercenaries and one shady security guard storm a Las Vegas zombie stronghold is nothing short of blood-and-guts entertainment, especially since those mercenaries make up a motley crew of heist roles in the purest of senses: Big Friendly Giant Dave Bautista, his estranged-then-rekindled daughter Ella Purnell (Sweetbitter), Dakota Johnson’s favourite comedian Tig Notaro as, well, Tig Notaro, loveable German nerd Matthias Schweighöfer, etc. etc. etc. This is the type of movie that would’ve come with an instant trading card line had it been released in 2009, but because it is 2021 I guess the best we can hope for is an NFT.
Anyway, none of this can fully encapsulate Army of the Dead — in true Snyder style, it’s a hyper-visual affair that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s overflowing with pageantry of the undead kind, its Las Vegas setting ripe for — dare I say it — campy parody by way of zombie Elvis impersonators, zombie lounge lizards, and zombie tigers from the Nevadan desert. It’s schticky and sticky, rife with both action thrills and nods to trashier B-movies. Army of the Dead feels like a cult classic waiting to happen.
Army of the Dead streams tonight on Netflix.
Watch these too:
Now You See Me, another heist mashup, except instead of zombies, it’s … magicians. (This is the perfect aspirational watch for anyone who spent an entire primary school summer holiday on a Magic 101 ‘educational course’ only to return without being able to so much as shuffle a deck of cards, and by ‘anyone’ I mean me.)
George A. Romero’s sprawling zombie epic Day of the Dead, a sequel to the equally classic Dawn of the Dead (remade by Snyder himself). Together, they birthed the hallmark of every great zombie film: not just about the undead, but about the woes — political and social — of the living, too.
Cargo, an Australian zombie horror with Western overtones, starring Martin Freeman as a father who braves the Australian bush to save both himself and an Aboriginal girl from impending doom.
I can’t stop thinking about:
This interview with Zack Snyder, where he reveals that he banned chairs on set. I famously “work” at a “standing” “desk” for about five minutes every morning before I give up and sit down without moving for seven hours, so I will not be stepping foot onto a Zack Snyder set, but I have a deep admiration for the posture of everyone who does.
This specific photo of Ewan McGregor wearing eyeliner and a spray-painted tank top at the 2002 MTV awards found on the website Ewan McGregor Dot Net, which is what? Camp. (I would say this is my last time using this word but we all know it is not). A fashion icon finally playing a fashion icon;that is what we like to call art imitating life.
This Saw tweet. If Saw is called Saw because I Saw it, then Spiral: from the Book of Saw is called Spiral because my housemate was in one when he decided to watch Spiral alone in the cinema at a 2:15PM session.
And apropos of nothing, a video of Mads Mikkelsen eating paper:
Love to see my namesake Mads Michaelsun eating paper.