Why zombie apocalypse films have thrived for as long as they have could be called a mystery to some. I say “some” because I don’t call it a mystery. I have it nailed down to the steadfast conviction that deserted towns (ripe for the trashing) and de-humanized, futureless humans with blood and guts running out of their mouths (justifiable for killing) are way too much of a temptation to resist.
No respectable psycho with any testosterone left in him can resist the primal urge to see shit knocked over, or to see heads split open with mallets and aluminum baseball bats (doesn't sound very eloquent, I know, but it's the truth). And garden tools are great weapons too. Seeing a tool Martha Stewart would pick up being used to spill blood like a butter knife through a ripe tomato is a beautiful thing when looked at with the right glasses on.
Chainsaws…well, hell, nearly every weapon an audience is used to seeing on the big screen is used to paint the streets in Zombieland in zombie blood. To my disappointment, Mag-lites weren’t included. What a shame. But the zombie entrails are nearly like the garland around a Christmas tree. Those who have restraint tables in their basements and sharp metal instruments for disfiguring victims would say it’s beautiful. I say it’s beautiful because Halloween is a beautiful time.
The point is made: the sight of stores being trashed and pianos matting walking corpses into the sidewalk…I understand why the zombie apocalypse theme has lived so long. But it’s been a while since 1968’s Night of the Living Dead (the nearly undisputed zombie movie king) and a much shorter while since 2002’s 28 Days Later (an excellent and frightening zombie flick by all rights and privileges).
Meanwhile, droves of copycatters and outright flops have come along and dropped off little to hold up in the way of quality. Those of us who weren’t movie junkies who would go see anything just to get out of the house on a Saturday night hated them. The intelligent movie watchers became allergic to the zombie apocalypse hype and crap. Call it “zombie apocalypse-itus.” I was a sufferer myself.
And now Zombieland comes riding in on a white horse. At last, the smoke clears and the dust settles with a close-up of one kick-ass zombie movie satirical screamer that is gory, thrilling, suspenseful, heartfelt, and last but definitely not least, funny enough to make me want to tell you to bring a change of pants.
Woody Harrelson was a more than right choice, even an irresistible one, as “Tallahassee,” a dog-lover with a jaded mind and a painful past. Jesse Eisenberg is “Columbus,” a WoW-playing, Mountain Dew Code Red-drinking, phobic recluse. The two meet and will need to keep in check some personality differences for when they cross paths with “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin), two sisters and fellow survivors who will test their limits and define their senses of character.
The story…you know the story: the entire world has been overrun by walking dead things...yada, yada, yada. The film doesn’t waste much time explaining why this catastrophe happened, nor should you wonder about it. We've seen enough zombie movies to know that, give or take a few small points, the plot is not going to vary that much. Just let your imagination take over. It's all the same.
As tasty as the action is, it is not the best part. The capsizing comedy…that’s what will follow you home. Character development is above reproach. Plot pacing is sterling except for one brief drop-off about halfway through where Bill Murray (as himself) makes a cameo appearance. A short, nearly 20-minute derail doesn’t negate the tidal waves of humor and class that Bill Murray can exude by just being himself.
Where can I go to get sensible “the world has gone to hell” entertainment? Glad you asked. Try Zombieland. It is not only entertaining, it is satisfying, and more than that, meaningful. And tell me when you last heard the term “meaningful” applied to anything zombie-related?
Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Summary: Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg “Columbus,” Woody Harrelson “Tallahassee,” Emma Stone “Wichita,” Abigail Breslin “Little Rock,” Amber Heard “406,” Bill Murray (Himself), Derek Graf “Clown Zombie”
Genre: Horror / Comedy / Action