Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland is fantastic fun. It is a funny, bloody, silly road trip through a brilliantly realised post-apocalyptic America. There is little depth to it, it’s not saying anything particularly interesting, it’s just immensely entertaining.

Columbus is a loner, a geek who’s survived the end of the world by sticking rigidly to a set of rules (seatbelts, double-tap, avoid bathrooms…). He teams up with Tallahassee, a redneck nutcase whose only ambition appears to be a quest for the last Twinkie. The two guys stumble upon Wichita and Little Rock, a pair of sisters who are on a journey to a costal theme park, which is apparently zombie-free. Although their relationship starts off pretty badly, they soon realise the value of being around other humans who aren’t trying to consume their brains and rip their intestines out.

With very few other speaking roles, Zombieland’s success rests on the quad’s ability to keep us interested, and they succeed admirably. Coming from a comedy background rather than horror one, the main four actors are well suited for a romp through post-apocalyptica. Our protagonist and constant narrator is endearingly played by Jesse Eisenberg, who has the weakness and neuroses of an everyday nerd stuck in a hellish situation. Woody Harrelson is immensely enjoyable as Tallahassee, a zombie-killing expert who happily unleashes all manner of hilarious death-dealing upon the unfortunate undead. Emma Stone oozes cool as the super sassy Wichita, whose trickster personality and love for her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) is charming and a great opposing force to Tallahassee’s machismo and Columbus’ effete nature. Breslin also proves Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t a fluke, and delivers a great performance as a child lost in a horrific world, where simple pleasures still cause wonder. The scene in a Native Indian gift shop will have even the hardiest of souls smiling with glee.

Thankfully the characters don’t get a vast back story or series of poignant flashbacks, with only Columbus’ explanation of his first encounter with the undead deserving an extended and amusing sequence involving his sexy neighbour and a manic bathroom fight. It isn’t necessary in Zombieland to delve into character – there is little room for depth during this fast-paced comedy horror – it would simply feel incongruous.

For a 15 certificate you get your money’s worth of spectacular gore – heads explode, blood vomits, bones pop through skin. It’s an incredibly violent affair, but never takes its aggression too seriously. It’s wild, fantastic and very well done. The final act at a “zombie-free” theme park is utterly brilliant and it’s hard not to giggle childishly when Tallahassee clambers into a rollercoaster cart and whips out his shotgun.

Ruben Fleischer’s direction is sharp and smart, featuring sly on-screen pop ups of Columbus’ rules and some oddly beautiful images of wrecked America sticking in the mind. The film is surprisingly short at 80 minutes, and it makes you hungry for more.

Zombieland’s only major flaw is its inability to tread new ground, which is always difficult in such a saturated genre. Taking the sly humour and fast zombies of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake and ignoring any political, religious or moral themes normally contained in most zombie films, it leaves a fun ride through a destroyed landscape of flesh-eating corpses that never scares or forces a braincell to spark. This is intentional, but it makes it feel more like a kooky road movie with added cannibalism rather than a post-apocalyptic zombie film. A little perspective is added when we hear of Tallahassee’s background and when Columbus utters “we are all orphans in Zombieland”, but it’s swamped by the overbearing nonchalance when it comes to murdering the dead. This is only a minor criticism, though, as Zombieland is immensely watchable throughout, rarely letting up the pace and zombie battering.

Worth it alone for the surprise cameo from one of Hollywood’s comedy elite, Zombieland packs a fun, funny, bloody punch that may lack substance or originality but certainly makes up for it in charm, kineticism and a loveable cast. Great fun.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

5 Comments on “Zombieland”

  1. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I just saw this and it was a total hoot.

    The cameo was spoiled for me by last months Fango, but even so, what a riot.

    My question is this:

    What is the better nerd-centric zombie flick? This or Dance Of The Dead…

  2. Sarah Law says:

    So, I finally watched this and to answer your question Jamie, I think Zombieland might have the edge. As much as I love Dance Of The Dead, I thought Zombieland didn’t necessarily have more geek-factor, it just had more obvious nods to other movies.

  3. The Scullion says:

    Finally watched Dance of the Dead. I think Zombieland wins the nerd-centric zombie award – Eisenberg IS neuroses, with his survival list and IBS, and despite being a long way through an undead apocalypse he’s still a complete geek…! Both awesome films though. Gotta love a zombie comedy!

  4. Rag says:

    I loved this film. It was a total flip on the zombie flicks that I have grown used to (and still love). And aside from the fact it is a damn entertaining film in it’s own right, I apprecaited it more cos it was so unexpected.

    And for me, the cameo rocked. But was plagued with ‘is that really a good idea’. I still laughed, a lot.

    It seems I’ll now have to track down Dance of the Dead.

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