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Small Details You Missed In Army Of The Dead

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

Watching Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead is a rip-roaring good time, but there's even more to this film than first meets the eye. In fact, if this thrilling new take on the zombie apocalypse left you hungry for more, you're in luck! Not only has a prequel film about the instantly-iconic safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) already wrapped production, but an animated series, Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas, will flesh out the fall of Sin City and tells us more about Scott Ward (wrestler-turned-action-star Dave Bautista) and his mercenary friends.

Before then, though, the original Army of the Dead has plenty of small details to sink your teeth into. From cinematic tributes to subtle Easter eggs to heartbreaking moments you might've missed, place your bets now as to whether you managed to catch all of these fun, hidden treats in Army of the Dead.

A moody melody

When it comes to the snazzy new rendition of "Viva Las Vegas" that plays while the zombie army decimates Sin City, timing is everything. The song, which was originally popularized by Elvis Presley, is the perfect tune to pay tribute to the iconic setting at the center of the undead action. That's not all, though. If you pay attention, you'll notice that it also includes several riffs that are aligned with the on-screen action. It's quite funny. For example, listen for a "Kapow!" when the Olympus Casino is struck by a helicopter, an "Ah, shoot!" when a paratrooper accidentally lands in the undead swarm, and, most hilariously, a "Watch out, Elvis!" when the Paris Casino's Eiffel Tower falls on an Elvis impersonator. 

But later, the song takes a more melancholy turn, as Allison Crowe takes the mic when it becomes clear that the battle for the city will not be won. By the time that the final segment of the wall drops on zombie-filled Vegas, the song has fully morphed into a ballad of mourning, and the powerful final crescendo effectively conveys the grim mood that permeates this unrecognizable, hopelessly lost version of the entertainment capital of the world.

If Crowe's voice sounds familiar, well, you might remember her vocals from a couple of other Zack Snyder movies. Crowe was the singer who performed "Ring of Fire" in Man of Steel's bar scene, and she was also the voice behind the heart-wrenching version of "Hallelujah" that played over the end credits of Zack Snyder's Justice League.

A heartbreaking reunion

In the credits montage, there's also a heartbreaking storyline you might not have noticed concerning one of the heroes who helps scour the city for survivors. The woman who transforms from a pearl-wearing soccer mom into a zombie-killing badass has a story arc that's absolutely gutting, and that plays out wordlessly during this sequence.

When we first meet this character, she rescues a little girl who's facing down a whole neighborhood of shamblers. At first, this just seems like another brave save. However, the girl is wearing a pink hooded sweatshirt that obscures her hair and face. In the woman's family photo, her daughter sports a similar outfit. Chances are, our unnamed hero rushed to this girl's aid not out of the goodness of her heart, but because she hoped she might have found her own kid.

Later, the woman seems crestfallen when she rifles through a pile of discarded clothes and finds another pink sweatshirt. Judging by the way that the woman turns around to fight some more, it's also not the right piece of clothing, and it's quite tragic. Finally, however, the finally does find her child, and it seems like all of her hard work has finally paid off — until, of course, the woman is overwhelmed by the undead at the Vegas border. Even worse, as the zombies attack, the woman's daughter refuses to leave her mother behind. The last time we see the couple, they're hugging while being eaten alive — and then they're both squished by one of the shipping crates that walls Las Vegas off from the rest of the world. Just in terms of the violence, that's gulp-tastic enough on its own, but looking back on how much effort their hard-won reunion took makes the whole thing even more devastating.

An ominous save

That final run through the border wall also contains an intriguing clue about the fate of Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick). Before the final piece of the wall drops, Vanderohe manages to escort one last survivor through the gate. Who should that lucky somebody be but a crisp-suited airline pilot? That detail might've been easy to overlook when it first happens, especially considering everything else that's going on at this moment, but once you know Vanderohe's fate in this film, this particular rescue hits a lot harder.

See, at the end of Army of the Dead, Vanderohe emerges as one of the casino heist's only survivors, and unlike the others in his party, he had the good sense to grab some cash on his way out of dodge. Unfortunately for him, though, he didn't emerge unscathed. After chartering his own personal plane, Vanderohe's all-new life of luxury is cut short when he discovers an errant bite mark, indicating that his days are numbered. If Vanderohe is anything like the rest of the walkers he's been so effective at mowing down with his giant saw, he's not the only one who faces a terrible fate, either. The rest of the plane's occupants are probably doomed, too. In other words, Vanderohe might have saved one pilot during his last act of heroism, but it looks like he's ultimately doomed another one.

A growing conspiracy

An undercurrent of political satire runs strong throughout Army of the Dead, beginning with the very reason that the outbreak begins in the first place. Were it not for a frisky pair of newlyweds forgetting to watch the road, the soldiers' caravan might've made its way to its destination, leaving its horrible payload intact to become... well, something awful. A biological weapon of war? A well-studied specimen from outer space? We don't quite know yet, but if you listen closely to the soldiers' conversation about their mysterious mission, this creature is definitely coming straight out of Area 51. To say that the zombie king, Zeus, is a highly sensitive government asset would be an extreme understatement.

So, perhaps it isn't too terribly surprising when Tanaka's (Hiroyuki Sanada) elaborate heist turns out to be nothing more than cover for Martin (Garret Dillahunt) to steal the zombie queen's head before the city is blown to smithereens. If you didn't see that twist coming, though, take a look back at one of Tanaka's earliest scenes in the film. When Scott calls and accepts Tanaka's offer, look closely at the company the casino mogul keeps. Judging by their uniforms, it looks like Tanaka is surrounded by military leaders, most of whom are probably very happy that they've found someone to do this extremely dirty work.

A cinematic tribute

Army of the Dead was filmed before Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League got the green light, but fans had been demanding to see his version of the DC superhero spectacular for years. So, since the director didn't know if anyone would ever actually get to see the mythical Snyder Cut, the writer-director decided to pay homage to their passion by hiding the Snyder Cut reels in Army of the Dead's nigh-impregnable vault. Just check out one of the film's promo photos. You can see the Snyder Cut film canisters just to the left of the doorway as Army of the Dead's cast looks inside.

That's not the only nod to Snyder's other work that can be found in Army of the Dead, either. The movie also winks at Dawn of the Dead, Snyder's excellent 2004 re-imagining of the George A. Romero classic of the same name. For example, the tricked-out food truck that Scott and Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) make is a lot like the busses that the survivors outfit for safety in Dawn of the Dead. Vanderohe's giant saw reminds us of one of the most shocking scenes on that bus, one that involves an uncontrolled chainsaw. The moment when Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo) shoots Chambers' (Samantha Win) gas canister is a nice callback to the propane tank explosion in Dawn of the Dead, and if you look closely at Scott's truck, you can see that he and his fellow mercenaries have replaced the menu with a kill-point system for all of their zombie-slaying adventures, just as the heroes in Dawn of the Dead made a little game out of taking out celebrity shamblers at the mall.

A basket of Easter eggs

In addition to all of the cinematic tributes sprinkled throughout Army of the Dead, there are also a few other Easter eggs audiences will want to watch out for. One is a nod to the history of the zombie tiger, Valentine, whose show is advertised on a sign for the Mirage. Another sign that can be seen during the Vegas fly-over scenes is an ironic ad for a zombie-killing virtual reality game at the MGM Grand that reads, "Had a few drinks, killed a few zombies." Perhaps that's where Scott, Cruz, and Vanderohe's team learned to become such effective undead exterminators. 

Zeus, the zombie king, has some of his backstory painted on the side of the Olympus hotel. Another prominent sign advertises Larry Fong's magic show. Although Snyder served as the director of photography for Army of the Dead, Fong was Snyder's cinematographer on many of his other movies, including 300, Sucker Punch, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Perhaps the tastiest little Easter egg, though, is in Scott's family portrait: There, he's wearing a Christmas sweater filled with tacos, a nod to his pre-apocalyptic food truck life.

An array of undead

One thing you can't help but notice in Army of the Dead is the fact that some of the zombies are absolutely not like the others. As the team's knowledgeable coyote (Nora Arnezeder) indicates, the people who are bitten by Zeus become alpha zombies who can organize and who have some human-like personality traits. Anyone who is bitten by the alphas or the other shamblers becomes a brainless biter.

One thing you might not have noticed, though, is that there are also some zombies scattered throughout the film who may not actually be zombies at all. Some, like Zeus and the unfortunate Elvis impersonator in the opening montage,  have glowing eyes and appear to be a bit more observant than the other walkers. Chances are, we'll find out much more about these curious additions to the zombie mythos as the Army of the Dead world continues to expand. Fans might also have some fun going back and figuring out where all of those fallen paratroopers ended up. Look carefully: they make some interesting reappearances throughout the film.