Year of Release: 2009
Date Viewed: December 31st, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
A zombie's mission is to wipe out the entire human civilization. But that doesn't stop people from loving them and paying to see them on the big screen. The world's most popular Halloween costume is back in a familiar apocalyptic tale that turns out to be one of the hippest horror films in recent years. Move over Shaun of the Dead. You're about to get kicked to the curb.
Like most zombie flicks, the cause of the apocalypse is virtually ignored. We immediately meet the young reluctant hero and narrator known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). Before the world ended, Columbus had been a nerdy loner, avoiding contact with people that resembled zombies in his eyes. Now that they actually are zombies, Columbus is beginning to miss people. As a square follower of society's rules, Columbus uses his own set of rules for living in Zombieland; the place formerly known as Earth. These rules are like the ten commandments of survival. Exercise often. Shoot a zombie twice for good measure. (Also known as the double tap.) Travel light. And his most important rule; Don't be a hero.
Inevitably, Columbus encounters a fellow human survivor known as Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). Unlike Columbus, Tallahassee has a motive for staying alive beyond the fear of death. He is obsessed with finding a fresh Twinkie before they all go stale. (Yes, they do have expiration dates.) Columbus decides that he can live with Tallahassee's eccentric behavior if it means having a tough guy around to watch his back. On the flip side, the other survivors they meet are unwilling to trust anyone. Young sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are just as strongly self trained with their wits as they are with guns. These two characters are also the most dangerous, as we see them manipulate the two older male protagonists into handing over their weapons and resources before they realize what hit them. Despite the rough early impression, the group ends up joining forces to help each person's chance in finding what they long for. Whether it's locating a lost family member or a sugary treat, there is safety in numbers when living in Zombieland.
It's harder than it looks to create good chemistry between two actors. Creating chemistry amongst a group of four is the ultimate trick. Zombieland succeeds in doing this. And a good thing too since the movie would have fallen apart otherwise. Zombieland's story doesn't bring any new twists or ideas to the zombie horror formula. So it's only mission was to concentrate on making every moment as fun as possible. The zombie kills are amusing and the characters' reactions to every situation feel fresh even when they aren't. It's a treat for novice horror fans, zombie veterans and fans of a certain A-list movie star who appears as himself in an unnecessary yet shamelessly entertaining subplot.
For zombie purists (whatever that could mean), they may be let down by the monsters' characteristics. Borrowing a page from 28 Days Later's playbook, the undead foes move at a fast pace as if they are always running to the endzone. Beyond that, it's your usual appetite for brains and groaning sounds. There is no precise timeline defined for how long the apocalypse has been going on. The human characters (especially Tallahassee) appear to have been fighting zombies for so long that they appear a little desensitized to their situation. So you can't expect very much horror when the characters don't feel it often. They're more concerned about boredom than getting eaten alive. The movie can be considered a comedic homage to familiar scenarios or a straight up comedy that happens to take place in a zombie infested world. Either would be correct.
The only chance of audience boredom is if one of two mistakes are made. Either you're in the mood for something serious, or you're expecting to see an innovative product. Zombieland is neither. But I didn't mind in the least. The movie is meant to be fun, and any attempt to heighten the drama or introduce a novel concept would have taken away from the experience.
Columbus writes a new rule inspired by Tallahassee's personality. "Enjoy the little things." That's probably good advice for anyone making the decision to watch this film. Smile at the moment when Columbus realizes that some rules are made to be broken. Laugh at all of Woody Harrelson's one-liners. Cheer when a zombie gets his head blown off in a way you wouldn't expect. Enjoy Zombieland before it's forgotten.