Grab your baseball bats and fuel up your chainsaws, Supa-Fans, because Netflix is bringing the undead apocalypse to Supanova in Melbourne, this weekend, with Zack Snyder’s crazy zombie-heist mashup film, Army of the Dead.
No stranger to working with ravenous hordes of the walking dead, Justice League mastermind Snyder first sunk his teeth into the genre with the 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s seminal zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, and now he’s back to put his unique spin on the genre.
Ahead of Snyder’s exclusive, digital appearance at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming on Saturday, 22 May in Melbourne, we caught up with star Ella Purnell to talk about her experiences on the set and what we can expect from the film.
Not content with merely rehashing your typical zombie outbreak story, Snyder has decided to not only borrow the best tropes from the classic horror genre, but has set to also dial up the excitement by introducing the classic trademarks of a casino heist film into the mix, blending them into what Purnell explains is “the craziest, funniest, funnest zombie-heist movie with zombie tigers set in Vegas you will ever see.”
Audiences may recognise Purnell as the younger version of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent from the live-action Disney film, or from her time starring alongside Eva Green in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but to prepare for her latest outing as the daughter of Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and being surrounded by swarms of hungry zombies, she tells us about the week-long zombie training bootcamp she had to go through with her fellow co-stars.
“We were taught by these two guys, they were lovely,” Purnell begins. “I think ex-army dudes and they taught us how to hold a gun, use a gun and reload a gun and other gun things. We went to like an actual shooting range to learn what that was like. And then they taught us how to work as a team and have each other’s backs, how to scan, you know, real army stuff in the wild. I know that all the stunts people in the background went to a different kind of zombie bootcamp where they learned how to be zombies. So we were learning completely polar things, but there were two bootcamps running at the same time.”
Despite her experiences shooting the film, Purnell is not confident in her zombie killing skills should she ever find herself faced by an outbreak of the undead in real life.
“It was two years ago that we shot this movie, so I can’t say that I have remembered everything,” he says. “And also, my character didn’t have to be that good at it because she’s not the best zombie killer of all the zombie killers. So I kind of managed to get away with like hiding in the back and messing around.”
As for writer/director Zack Snyder, who is already working with Netflix on an animated spin-off series, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, which will chart the early days of the Vegas zombie outbreak only glimpsed in the opening few minutes of the film, Purnell has nothing but praise for his collaborative approach to filmmaking.
“He was literally every actor’s dream director,” she tells. “He’s super energetic and fun and funny. He knows everyone’s names – he has this family.
“He’s very hands-on, like always in there filming things, very collaborative allows you to improvise. And what really surprised me was that he can do [it all]; he can do that action stuff and direct that like a pro and make it look super realistic and get the audience’s attention. But he can also do the emotional stuff, which I suppose does surprise me.”
Zack Snyder will give a virtual Q&A panel at 10:30am on Saturday, 22 May at Supanova Melbourne’s Army of the Dead Theatre. The virtual Q&A will be hosted by Alexei Toliopoulos and Gen Fricker from Netflix’s The Big Film Buffet podcast.
The Q&A will be followed by a screening of the film later in the afternoon (R18+). Fans will also get the opportunity to mix with some Vegas-inspired zombies as part of a photo stop outside the Army of the Dead Theatre.
Army of the Dead premieres on Netflix on Friday, 21 May.
Lead Image: Dave Bautista as Scott Ward and Ella Purnell as Kate Ward in ‘Army of the Dead’. Photo by Clay Enos (via Netflix).