When you read the titles Army of the Dead and Saw, what are the first things you think of?
If you’re even remotely familiar with either/both, the answer is probably zombies and gruesome traps, respectively.
Cool, then why are neither the focus of either movie??
I beat this drum frequently in regards to the action genre: if a movie’s in the business of nothing besides mindless entertainment (not that there’s anything wrong with that), why waste time striving to legitimately pull off character development and serious drama/emotions? Sure, the best movies have it all, but since most filmmakers and films specialize in certain attributes, why not hone in on those attributes and skip the jack-off-motion attempts at what’s considered to be “more”?
I feel the same way about Spiral (the new Saw) and Army of the Dead. In regards to the former, the vast majority of audiences bought their tickets for predominantly one reason: to see some humans get fucked up by Jigsaw’s ingeniously hideous traps. OK, then why the fuck do we spend so much of the duration on the cops trying to stop the murders?! The answer is simple: investigative procedurals create their own narrative engines.
But what if a Saw movie did away with cops entirely? What if an entire entry zoomed-in on the victims of these traps, and what it’s like to be trapped in them? Many movies feature cops; few feature Jigsaw’s traps, so shouldn’t they be the distinctest feet put forward?
Similarly, Army of the Dead has been sold as Ocean’s 11 during a Zombie apocalypse. Dope premise, but it quickly devolves into the usual story of humans struggling to survive and defeat the walking dead. The most interesting parts of the movie, to me, are when the humans are offscreen, allowing us the opportunity to observe and learn about what life is like for the zombies themselves, with suggestive hints of their mythology.
I’ve said it about Andy Serkis’ new Planet of the Apes trilogy (yes, he deserves authorship), and I’ll say it about zombie movies: what if there were just no humans at all? What if an entire movie was devoted to depicting how zombies exist in the world, and with each other? You might think that sounds like a comedy, but the same could’ve been said about Apes, and yet!
Don’t these approaches sound much more novel??
Now where are my royalties.