Why Ella Purnell Felt “Uncomfortable” Filming ‘Army of the Dead’

The film is more than just blood and gore.

Zack Snyder’s new zombie heist film, Army of the Dead, is dropping on Netflix this May 21! And while a lot of fans are excited to see the action, gore, and the drama that comes with the genre, actress Ella Purnell shares that something about the film made her “uncomfortable and weird.” Interestingly, it was also the part that had drawn her to the movie.

Army of the Dead is Snyder’s second zombie film following his acclaimed remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in 2004. The new film follows Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and his rugged crew of experts as they try to retrieve $200 million from an underground vault at the heart of a zombie-infested Las Vegas before the government nukes the whole place.

But not all members of the party are in for the money. Scott’s estranged daughter Kate– played by Ella Purnell– is a selfless volunteer who works at a refugee camp just outside the barricaded city of Las Vegas. Despite her father’s objections, she joins the team so she can find her refugee friend Geeta who went missing inside the city.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

The refugees as social commentary

While the film is packed with thrilling action, Snyder also took the opportunity to add social commentary to the film, which has become a standard to the zombie genre. For Army of the Dead, the director wanted to touch on issues about immigration and the vilification of immigrants which is very relevant, especially two years ago when the film was still in the works.

“That was one of the things that, I think, made me realize that this wasn’t your average, sort of shallow, zombie movie,” actress Ella Purnell said during a recent roundtable interview with the Philippine press. “There was all this depth, both politically and emotionally, that I could bring out in it.”

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While the social commentary convinced Purnell that this was more than just a zombie movie, she also expressed how this felt uncomfortable for her knowing how it reflects reality.

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“It was weird and very uncomfortable,” the actress said. “Because we shot this two years ago, in quite a different time and administration. And volunteering in these refugee camps, there was a lot of talk about the things that go on there– sexual assault, separating mothers from children, building a wall, I mean, we all had that stuff in the script. And then working with the guards, like Theo Rossi– who is a fantastic actor– it was really uncomfortable watching him abuse his power in that way.”

Photo courtesy of Netflix

A zombie film in the time of COVID-19

While already carrying this timely message about immigrants, the zombie film also coincided with a pandemic that’s very real for everyone. Filming for Army of the Dead wrapped up in October of 2019, just a few months before the coronavirus became a global concern.

“As I mentioned, it was weird filming it given what was going on at the time politically, and even weirder [looking] back two years later and [watching] these quarantine camps and these people reacting to this deadly and contagious disease,” says Purnell.

Asked what her takeaway was with this event and how the film coincidentally reflects it, Purnell answered: “Given everything that’s gone on in the world since, I think the one thing that I’ve taken from it is the strength and the beauty of how humans face this sort of mass trauma that has happened to the world.”

“I think it surprised me how courageous people have been and I believe the movie a little bit more now because we [are living] this difficult time,” the actress added.

Photo: Zack Snyder on Twitter

Working with zombies

Setting aside the social commentary and its parallels with the pandemic, Army of the Dead is generally just a fun and thrilling action zombie flick that’s perfect for a few hours of escapism.

Photo courtesy of Netflix

And given how scary Snyder’s latest zombies are– they’re fast, smart, and they’re following this buffed zombie king– Purnell also shared how the actors who played these pale-faced monsters creeped her out during filming.

“There were definitely moments when they freaked me out,” the actress recalls. “I don’t like blood, guts, and gore, and that kind of stuff; and so, the fake blood and the fake deaths were definitely freaky.

“Especially when you got up close to them and they had prosthetics in their face [and they had] these sort of reptilian, really creepy contact lenses, and they really get close to your face, it’s quite hard to have a conversation with them without feeling really uncomfortable and having to move away. But after a while you get used to it, you know, and you learn everyone’s names and you talk about how your weekends were. It just becomes part of life,” shared the actress.


Are you ready to see this new horde of Alpha Zombies come to life on screen? Army of the Dead is coming to Netflix this May 21. For more information, visit the film’s official Netflix page.

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Army of the Dead is directed by Zack Snyder, who also served as director of photography, came up with the story, and co-wrote the screenplay with Shay Hatten and Joby Harold. Alongside Ella Purnell are stars Dave Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Samantha Win, Garret Dillahunt, Nora Arnezeder, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

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Movie Info

Army of the Dead
Action | Horror | Sci-fi

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