Some time ago: We view a recap of the zombie outbreak. The series of black and white images are accompanied by a newscast.
"Dead people . . . the recently departed . . . Unburied human corpses are returning to life and feeding on the living. Stay inside. Do not try to leave your homes. They seem to survive by eating human flesh. Everyone who dies will become one of them. If you are bitten, you will just become one of them that much sooner. They're not your neighbors and friends, not anymore. My wife had a heart attack. Got up and came after me like a banshee from hell. I put a curling iron through her head."
" . . . the head . . . the brain . . . They must be destroyed as quickly as possible. There's no time for funeral arrangements. There's no time to dig up holes so you can drop these things in the ground. As long as we're alive, they ain't never gonna run out of food. The day they do, it'll mean only one thing: We're all dead. This not only a local or a regional phenomenon. Cities are under siege."
Other newscasts are heard in Italian, Polish, and French. "If these creatures ever develop the power to think, to reason, even in the most primitive way . . . People are said to be establishing outposts in big cities and raiding small rural towns for supplies, like outlaws."
Today: In a small, run-down town, zombies are everywhere, and they seem to retain knowledge of their lives before they died. Some zombies try to play instruments in a town square. A teenage boy zombie holds hands with a female teenage zombie as if on a date. The teenage zombies walk past a gas station, where the zombie attendant hears the bell that signifies that someone is there. The zombie walks outside and is ready to fill a car with gas, but he sees that there is no car so he puts back the gas nozzle.
From the name-tag that he has, his name is Big Daddy (Eugene Clark). Watching Big Daddy through binoculars is Riley (Simon Baker) and his new rookie. Riley sees that the zombies are getting somewhat smarter, and that they are thinking more. This worries him. Riley is a part of a group of humans who venture out to small towns and gather essential supplies for people back at the last known human city.
A figure is walking towards Riley and the rookie, but they don't see it. The rookie turns around, sees it, and gets ready to blast it to hell when Riley recognizes it and orders the rookie to lower his weapon. It is only Charlie (Robert Joy), a man who has half of his face burnt from a fire. Charlie is slightly retarded. He is Riley's right-hand man, and is his trusted friend.
Riley built a vehicle that is justly named 'Dead Reckoning', which is basically a combination of a bus, train, and tank. It is fully loaded with machine guns, rockets, and fireworks. Riley and the rookie meet up with Cholo (John Leguizamo), who also has the same job as Riley of collecting supplies as well as dumping trash in a nearby landfill. Riley tells Cholo that the zombies are thinking, and to be careful when they go into the town. Cholo brushes off the warning, but Riley gets his point across. It is Riley's last night out, and he doesn't want anyone dying.
Cholo reveals that it is his last night out as well. Charlie and Riley wonder how Cholo is retiring tonight, unless he won the lottery. The rag-tag team of humans get in their jeeps and motorcycles, and proceed towards the town. Pretty Boy (Joanne Boland), the female operator of Dead Reckoning, fires off some fireworks over the town. All the zombies stare at the sky, their attentions focused on the lights. This allows Riley and the humans to move freely throughout the town unnoticed.
Big Daddy is the only zombie who does not look at the fireworks. He sees his fellow undead companions looking at the sky, and he tries to shake their attention from it. The humans are just about finished with finding things to bring back home when Cholo tells Riley that he just needs to make one more stop at a store. Cholo really is going to the shop to steal alcohol, which sells well on the streets back home. Riley urges him not to go, but Cholo ignores him.
He takes the rookie and Foxy (Tony Nappo). There's something wrong: the fireworks are jammed. The zombies are starting to become aware of the humans in their midst, and start to stumble towards them. Riley orders Dead Reckoning and the rest of his team to evacuate and retreat back home. Riley and Charlie will go and bring back Cholo with his men. Dead Reckoning starts to head out and blasts away many zombies with its machine guns.
Big Daddy sees the danger of the guns and tries to get the other zombies to take cover, but they are not getting it. He holds onto a zombie's head and tries to push him towards the ground, but the machine gun fire blasts the zombie's head off. Big Daddy, still holding onto the zombie's head, sees that it is still alive. To put it out of its misery, he drops the head and stomps on it, crushes its brains. Big Daddy roars with rage.
Back at the shop, while looking for some quality alcohol, Cholo is jumped by a zombie. Foxy and the rookie can't get a clean shot, but Cholo prevails safely when he pulls his spear gun from his leg and blasts the zombie's brains out. He collects the alcohol and stops at the counter. He empties a box and tells the rookie to collect it. Some of it falls behind the counter. Cholo and Foxy wait outside. The rookie reaches over the counter and a security guard zombie bites a chunk out of his hand.
The rookie screams in pain and stumbles outside. Riley and Charlie pull up to the store and see what's happening. Riley blasts the zombie's brains out. Cholo orders Riley to step aside, as the rookie is going to become one of them. While Riley argues about the rookie's fate, the rookie snatches Riley's pistol and blows his own brains out. This is not how Riley wanted to start his retirement. Riley, Charlie, Cholo, and Foxy go back to the city. Before one of the bikers leaves, Big Daddy tries to grab him but instead grabs his machine gun.