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Army of the Dead Perfectly Blends Heist and Zombie Genre Ending Tropes

In Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder brings together various genres, and this is paid off with a hybrid ending straddling heist and zombie tropes.

Army of the Dead‘s genre mashup leads to a “best of both worlds” ending, sitting somewhere between zombie horror and traditional heist tropes. When Netflix let Zack Snyder unleash a horde of undead upon an unsuspecting Las Vegas, they likely knew the result wouldn’t be a stereotypical zombie flick and, in many ways, Army of the Dead represents a reinvention of the horror sub-genre. The teased alien origin borrows from George A. Romero, and the film’s “shamblers” adopt his 1968 blueprint. The gang’s slow, careful trek through an casino infested hallway repeats the classic, suspenseful set pieces we’ve seen in countless undead tales previously, and the constant potential for characters to be hiding a bite looms large.

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But is Army of the Dead a heist movie with zombies, or a zombie movie set during a heist? As much as Snyder draws liberally from the playbook of the dead, Army of the Dead also owes plenty to the classic heist capers of yore – The Italian JobOcean’s ElevenThe Usual Suspects, etc. We see a diverse crew of assorted misfits assemble for “one last job” and even get the typical briefing/gearing up montage sequences. The emphasis isn’t so much on survival (as would normally be the case in a zombie tale), but on each member of Las Vengeance doing the job they were recruited for and, as you might expect, the journey proves more important that the intended prize.

Related: Army Of The Dead: How Was The First Zombie Created?

Army of the Dead‘s hybrid between zombie and heist formulas creates a problem for the film’s ending. In a zombie story, much of the main cast usually wind up dead or bitten. In a heist film, however, the characters almost always manage to nab victory from the jaws of the defeat, with a last minute stroke of genius (or fortune) allowing them to narrowly pull off the mission and escape unscathed. With such wildly different directions to pick from, Army of the Dead might’ve lost its inventive edge had it chosen to follow one over another. In the end, Zack Snyder blends the two together.

Like any good zombie effort, most of Army of the Dead‘s characters bite the blood-soaked dust of Las Vegas before the end. Starting with the ill-fated Chambers, the squad drop like flies until Kate is the only member left alive and unbitten (that we know of, at least). Holding up the heist end of Army of the Dead‘s bargain, the purpose of entering Las Vegas is fulfilled – albeit in unexpected fashion. Dave Bautista’s Scott is hired to crack the vault at Bly Casino and make off with the millions inside, and the team fails to achieve this goal spectacularly. But the real, unspoken reason these people embarked on such a dangerous quest wasn’t for themselves – it was to deliver a better life to those who deserve it. Kate is the only character to express this motivation explicitly, but Scott wants a shot at redemption, Vanderohe works helping old folks, Cruz aids her local community as a mechanic, and The Coyote has been fighting for refugees since the beginning.

So in Army of the Dead‘s closing moments, when a bitten Scott reveals to Kate that he managed to sneak out just enough money for Geeta’s children to have a proper chance at escaping poverty, that’s the mission complete. Scott’s dying reveal acts as the aforementioned last-minute twist heist movies so often employ to keep a sense of unpredictability until the very end. The result is a perfect hybrid of both tropes – the unrelenting, gory “I can’t believe they all died” of a zombie movie, mixed with the plucky, air-punching “I can’t believe they actually did it” of a heist film.

More: Army Of The Dead’s Opening Credits Secretly Spoils The Ending

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