Time to nut up or shut-up… Zombie lovers step right up, your movie has arrived. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the aptly named Zombieland is a fast paced, funny, balls to the wall video game fan’s dream come true.
The premise of the movie is simple. The world and civilization as we know it is no more. Due to the outbreak of a virus derived originally from mad cow disease, most of the population is now zombies. Not the Night of the Living Dead plodding zombies who aren’t all that menacing. More like the 28 Days Later faster and more dangerous ones.
There are a few survivors traveling around trying to find any semblance of safety, most notably Columbus (Adventureland’s Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Superbad’s Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin). All of them pale in comparison to Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who is probably the best, and funniest zombie killing character this side of Bruce Campbell. Harrelson is a riot, has tremendous comedic timing and puts on one of the best “come and get me” zombie killing standoffs ever captured on celluloid.
The movie switches between two primary situations. Either A) the group or members of the group are in a zombie infested area and are laying wholesale waste to it with all manner of blunt, sharp, and projectile weapons. Or B) they are holed up in a car or building bickering, joking, and hanging out. The balance between these two states holds up pretty well and the zombie-less scenes allow for some pretty good character development. There is a twist and a turn here and there regarding the motivations and history of the characters, and just enough emotion to make it feel more like a movie and less like Left 4 Dead (a videogame involving a group of zombie survivors…for you non-gamers) on the big screen.
The banter between the characters is fantastic, specifically Breslin and Harrelson. One gets the feeling that a lot of extra adlibbed conversation might have been left on the cutting room floor, which should make for some great DVD extras.
Aside from the terrific jokes and the ample amounts of gore and shameless zombie violence, comes a fantastic albeit it brief cameo from a film icon, playing himself. One of the highlights of the movie which thankfully was for the most part not revealed during the promotional campaign leading up to the release.
Another great thing about the film is that the characters act smart. This might sound dumb and irrelevant, but too many times in horror films or zombie movies characters walk around as if nothing is wrong and generally go about everything the complete wrong way. Like opening doors you know have danger inside, making loud noises and generally causing mayhem when silence and stealth are called for. Except for one situation in the film, the characters of Zombieland are not like this. They act the way anyone actually trying to survive such a situation would. Not just in the “be careful, shoot first ask questions later kind of way”, but as a rather funny scene at a Trading Post shows…there are a lot of things you get to do, and probably would want to do, when the rules of basic society break down that you can’t
Beyond that, there is very little extra substance to Zombieland. With a name like that, what else would you expect? The camera work by Fleischer is pretty impressive and while there are some Zach Snyder-esque slo-mos, they are used with a deal of restraint and mostly limited to the introduction portion of the film. The make-up and costume work is also incredibly top notch and genre lovers will appreciate knowing that they spared absolutely no expense on gore and excess body fluids.
At a brisk 81 minutes the movie doesn’t get bogged down in itself or trying to do too much. Yet there is just enough characterization and moments of emotion between the laughing and zombie slaying to push Zombieland closer to being Shaun of the Dead and less like My Bloody Valentine. It’s easily one of the most entertaining movies of the year and a shoe in to become a staple of any great zombie film DVD collection.
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