If you’ve seen Army of the Dead – and if you haven’t, spoilers coming up in this very sentence, so be advised – you know that one of the more interesting variants on modern zombie lore is the inclusion of what they call “Alphas” – zombies that have some semblance of intelligence above what we consider normal for the recently and not-so-recently deceased.
For sure, there are plenty of rank and file flesh-eaters for our heroes, including Dave Bautista and Tig Notaro, to contend with, but they’re led by a figure the script dubs Zeus (Richard Cetrone), patient zero for the zombie plague that causes Las Vegas to be walled off, and he’s a thinker. At the very least, he’s smart enough to wear a neat mask/helmet dealio to ward off headshots and to trot around the strip on a zombie horse. He’s even got a zombie wife (Athena Perample) who is effectively the Queen of Undead Vegas. These two share a palpable emotional bond; threats to and the eventual death of the Queen invoke Zeus’s rage and drive him on a roaring rampage of revenge.
“But wait!” you say. “Zombies don’t do that! They’re only eating machines propelled by a horrible craving for living flesh, or occasionally brains!” To which hypothetical exclamation I reply, “You’ve not been paying attention.” For sure, what we might think of as the factory model cinematic zombie started off as a mindless undead cannibal, but almost immediately, filmmakers began modding. Army of the Dead is just the latest variant.