Content Warning: The following article contains depictions of violence and suicide.
There was once only the first “Trilogy of the Dead” by George A. Romero that the public could watch. Now, it looks like there’s a new Zombie Project coming out to stream or in theaters seemingly every week. Even with the flood, filmmakers are finding new and inventive ways to expand the myth and provide audiences with shocking twists and turns.
The trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon as many of these projects have been well priced, lucrative, or a combination of both. Yet even in good zombie movies there can be twists and turns so obvious that audiences can see them from a mile away.
9 The Baby is a Zombie – Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Zack Snyder’s take on what is arguably George A. Romero’s best zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead, offers the public a new addition to the range of zombies: a baby zombie. The Undead Child makes an appearance midway through the film as terrified protagonists barricade themselves at a local mall to avoid being eaten by a mob of zombies.
Adding a pregnant woman to the narrative increases the urgency that has been present since the tense opening scene. Even still, the public knew that the baby was going to be born. Considering this was a graphic horror film, it went without saying that the baby would also be undead and should be eliminated like any other zombie.
8 A Heroic Sacrifice – I Am Legend (2007)
The eponymous 1954 novel which I’m a legend was based on endings with surprising revelations. The cast and crew even shot that ending where Dr. Neville is essentially the hero and villain of the movie. Neville is the last human to die, leaving him with a tarnished reputation.
Vampires (or zombies) see him as a sadist who takes pleasure in slaughtering their fledgling society. The film’s final cut follows a more predictable path, with Will Smith’s Dr. Neville finding a cure just before his own heroic death. There is no moral gray area for the hero; instead, the audience experiences a standard sacrifice for the greater good.
7 The Fate of Dave Bautista – Army of the Dead (2021)
by netflix Army of the dead contains a well-developed cast of characters, so it’s never clear who will live and who will perish. This uncertainty is amplified by the film’s intentional lack of clarity as to who the real protagonist of the film is. It serves as the subtle but obvious bait and switch that happens at the end of the movie.
The redemption and subsequent death of Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward seemed foreshadowed almost from the start. When a narrative sets greed as a character’s motivation in a zombie movie, it points to the doomed path their arc will take. Scott is no different, so his disappearance came as no surprise. It didn’t take long for the public to know that this was really the story of Scott’s daughter Kate, who is more of a traditional hero and therefore lives on.
6 They Are Like Us – Land of the Dead (2005)
Zombies in Night of the Living Dead staggered, moaning. The living dead in Dawn of the Dead did much the same thing, except that they could remember their lifestyle habits. Then, The day of the Dead had one listening to music and greeting an officer. It was a signifier that zombies are more than they seem, and it hasn’t strayed into the Unbelievable yet. Land of the deadThe conclusion of, with the zombies choosing not to eat a bunch of people because they’re not threatening, is a far cry from the heavy, gnashing villains of Romero’s original.
It’s also predictable, because the movie had so firmly established a zombie as a leader. If zombies can have bosses, they can band together and strategize. The clever zombie trope can be scary, but it’s pretty clear to audiences early on that Romero is going to take on divergent societies living in peace.
5 The Soldiers Are Infected – Planet Terror (2007)
The Better Half of Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 Double Feature Mill, Planet terror, is almost entirely unpredictable. However, it’s pretty obvious from Bruce Willis’ snarling demeanor in the first scene that he and his soldiers are the primary antagonists that have something to do with all of the zombies wreaking havoc in the small town of Texas.
This suspicion becomes more apparent due to his departure from the script for the majority of the film. The public has the feeling that Willis, then star of the theater, will come back in force. He does this through the third act, where Willis’ Lt. Muldoon explains how he and his men are infected themselves. They need the gas that started the infection, because that is what prevents the most serious effects. The “twist” here is obvious: the saviors sent by the government are actually there to kill the heroes. The public is used to being wary of authority in this type of film (with Night of the Living Dead being the most famous example), so this revelation was not so shocking or convincing.
4 Flagstaff & Albuquerque – Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Zombieland: double tap is a movie filled with new actors. Some, like Rosario Dawson, seemed pretty sure they would survive until Zombieland 3. When Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch appear halfway through the sequel, viewers don’t have the same feeling.
The narrative is about the established quartet, not Flagstaff (Middleditch) and Albuquerque (Wilson). It’s like they’re mirror images of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) that serve no purpose other than to add to the body count of the film. There’s no way the four of them will get along until the conclusion, even if it’s not the zombies that kill. When they die, it’s both graphic and expected.
3 Some Endings Cannot Be Remade – Night of the Living Dead (1990)
George A. Romero’s 1990 Tom Savini remake Night of the Living Dead (1968) sticks to the narrative rhythms of the original almost to the letter. The ending, however, could not and probably should not have been redone.
The end of the original was a fairly subtle but definitive statement about race relations in the United States. The remake (also written by George A. Romero) changes Ben’s fate. The character of Ben is here played by Tony Todd, who provides many Night of the Living Deadthe best moments. He dies in both, but his disappearance here is more traditional for horror. What’s new is Barbara’s fate as she is transformed into a tough “final girl” character who is now standard in the horror genre. It works in the movie, but compared to the original’s abrupt, heart-wrenching ending, it’s predictable.
2 There is a cure! – World War II (2013)
As the film races to its climax, Second World Wars audiences are increasingly realizing that a sequel is being set up. Obviously this is part of a series.
Not all movies end well and cleanly, whether it’s a three-act structure or something a little more subversive. With Second World War, there is no real end. Instead, Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane injects himself with a vaccine to fight more zombies. Second World WarThe original ending of was more complex and almost certainly would have turned out to be less predictable to audiences.
1 The Professor’s Intentions – Patient Zero (2018)
This 2018 star-studded sci-fi zombie flick mostly flew under the radar. Among some of his perceived problems was a predictable common thread. Matt Smith (Doctor Who) embodies Morgan, a character who oscillates between infected and fully human. Fairly late in the film, Stanley Tucci enters the narrative playing a similar character called the Professor.
It’s clear from the moment he asks Morgan his name that he knows more than he should. Morgan has been established as the hero, and the professor’s sly demeanor indicates he has ulterior motives besides just meeting someone who looks like him. This is confirmed when he calls his infected companion to the base for an attack. As this twist was expected due to Tucci’s telegraphed villainy, the film’s conclusion feels rushed and generic.
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