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Zombieland (2009) ***1/2

February 2, 2010

Zombieland (2009) final poster 

written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
produced by: Gavin Polone
directed by: Rueben Fleischer
Rated R (for horror violence, gore and language)
88min.
U.S. release date: October 2, 2009
DVD & Blu-ray release date: February 2, 2010
 

From the moment I saw the trailer, I just knew this film couldn’t be anything other than great. Now, I must say that I was still quite surprised after watching it by just how much fun it was. Oh, I knew it was gonna be fun but throughout my viewing, I could be found laughing-out-loud, grinning deliriously and cringing in my seat at the sight of all the blood-splattering hilarity. It’s a film destined for cult status. Yes, it’s bloody and hilarious but it also has just enough heart and characterization to get us interested in these four main characters. Of course, it helps that these are the only four non-zombies left after the world as we know it has been ravaged by the undead. So, we might as well sit back and get used to them but it helps that not only are they all individually interesting but you can really tell the actors are into who they are playing. I’ve said it before, it’s always fun to see an actor having a blast with a role. 

 

Thankfully, there’s hardly any time wasted on why there are zombies or whether or not anyone else is living among the undead. Who cares! All that matters is staying alive and a young man named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), learns early on (the hard way, of course) that a set of rules is needed in order to make it in “Zombieland”. The way in which we see his rules executed are just one of the many ways this movie is a slice above the typical zombie flick. He hooks up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a gung-ho redneck zombie killer, who turns out to be his complete opposite yet through much arguing they both agree that in a world like this it’s important to enjoy the little things….like Twinkies. That’s right, Tallahassee loves him some sweet whipped lard-filled, golden cake delights and in between some brutal zombie slaughters, searches for them throughout the film. Of course, everything can’t go smoothly in Zombieland and we soon meet their female foils in the form of Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), two con artists on their way to an “Adventureland” (yes, I included that on purpose) like amusement park in California. The four of them try to team-up and stick together which proves quite tumultuous. Over time, they grow on each other and realize that they truly are all they have which will come in handy as we see them surrounded by more and more zombies. All that matters is doing whatever it takes to stay alive, adhering to a set of rules to live by in this new world and finding Twinkies. 

One could easily draw comparison to “Shaun of the Dead” with it’s comedy and it’s zombies but here everything is immediately amplified. Director Ruben Fleischer wastes no time establishing the adrenalized action and gore whereas Edgar Wright’s “Shaun” starts out slowly revealing the unliving. Neither film is better than the other really. What we’re given here is essentially a road trip movie and I’ll bet that this one will become just as beloved as the other. Fleischer does have a slicker look to his story with more CGI that takes on an assortment of creative kills that provide a load of laughs amid ample blood. It’s really what zombie lovers like myself ask for in a movie that knows what it is. 

 

As soon as Metallica’s, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” blasts through the opening sequence, we know what we’re in for and it only solidifies the enjoyable ride in store for us. It’s obvious that Fleischer is going for something more than just scares by his visual style which adds marvelously to the clever script by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. The visual effects team employs a tactic here that haven’t seen employed before in comedy horror films. In a way, they basically break down the fourth wall, as Columbus’ rules for survival literally appear on the screen as they are enacted. We see the words “Do cardio” (“The first ones to go were the fatties,” Columbus says), or “beware of bathrooms” and “check the back seat” or my favorite “always buckle up” followed by a shockingly amusing sequence as to how and why this rule is so important. Then when a previously stated rule becomes relevant—when nature calls, for instance—the relevant text pops up, occasionally getting splattered with blood. While there are both slow and fast zombies, slow-motion is often used in an effort to superbly examine how unique each kill is or what body part is landing where. 

The film turns out being one crazy apocalyptic landscape after another and only gets crazier once the foursome make their way to Hollywood. Much is already being spoiled about the fantastic celebrity cameo they encounter after they get a hold of a Map of the Stars. I can’t say anything beyond that except that the appearance is by one of my favorite actors who gives some of the most hilarious scenes this year. Some may consider this sequence as a diversion or a lull but I found it refreshing in that we actually see sufficient character development here (imagine that!) before we head back into more zombie killing. 

Nevertheless, this is great material wonderfully executed. As I mentioned the cast is having a blast. It’s great see Harrelson reveling in his role as he shoots off rounds of ammo and beating down zombies with a garden tool variety of weapons. Eisenberg is often compared to Michael Cera and while that’s understandable, I believe him to be capable of more range. Sure, we may have not seen a film that would show such range but I’m gonna go with my gut and see what David Fincher does with him when he plays the founder of Facebook. We may once again see Eisenberg’s neurotic shtick here but as he narrates the rules of this world, he also sold me on how lost his life was even before everyone was zombified. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin give plucky support with their sly retorts but I found myself wanted to know more about them which leads me to assume a sequel is a no-brainer. 

The theme park finale is a raucous kitchen sink ending that will have every fanboy and girl squealing with geeky glee. Bottom line: here is a horror-comedy done right. Taking a screwy and sweet stance that is both fast and loose. I would gladly revisit “Zombieland” any time, I’d just make sure to pay close attention to the rule book and enjoy the little things. 

Zombieland (2009) poster 1 

 

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Ford permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:11 am

    Best cameo ever!

  2. windi permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:35 am

    I so totally loved this movie! I thought Woody Harrelson was awesome in it! He hasn’t been around enough in movies lately,so it’s always fun to see him in one, especially since I can’t ever quite get his Cheers character out of my head–which makes watching some of his other roles a bit surreal! hahaha

    I’m not a horror fan at all, but I love a good horror/comedy when it’s done right. This was definitely on my top ten list this year!

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