Whilst cinephiles of the past have been treated time and time again with the likes of zombie-horror-comedies such as From Dusk Till Dawn, Shaun of the Dead and Planet Terror, Director Reuben Fleischer’s Zombieland is THE horror-comedy for the Juno Generation. As inspired by Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland does not disappoint in its portrayal of likable characters thrown into apocalyptic settings and scenarios that seem them as prey. But just as quickly as Simon Pegg and gang have owned the zombie-cult arena, Fleischer arrives to yell loud and clear that the Americans are back, armed with every kind of filmmaking ammunition a blockbuster at this time of year needs. It’s really fun to unwind to the comedy of Zombieland; as the undead horrifically feast their way about day to day life , it’s up to our heroes to do some serious Zombie killing. Songs from Metallica through to Metric diversify the score and add indie credibility.
Woody Harrelson (No Country For Old Men, 2012) plays the gun slinging, country loving Tallahassee, alongside his bumbling co-star narrator, Columbus. Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland, The Squid and the Whale) as the American-apparel hoodie wearing Columbus is sweet and nervous. Correlations between his character anything played by indie favourite Michael Cera are undeniable. In fact, it often feels like the filmmakers initially had Cera in mind for the part, but had to settle with Eisenberg.
The immediate differences between our macho-hero and the geek ensure drama at every turn; Tallahassee is a lone rider with no place in mind, only Zombie killing, and Columbus is desperate to reunite with the family he never really felt a part of, get to meet a girl who doesn’t want to eat him and survive to live happily ever after. Things really get sticky while the pair are out twinkle hunting, and when their search yields none of the deep-fried cream treats that Americans love, a plot twist throws them into collision with a pair of gorgeous sisters, or for our heroes – a couple of damsels in distress. One of the highlights of this film is the portrayal of these sisters. Their personalities are not restricted as only the sidekicks and they dominate the heroes effectively without becoming femme fatales. Wichita is played by Emma Stone and the elder of the two, whilst twelve year old Little Rock is My Sister’s Keeper and Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin, who’s ability to shift between devastated and hilarious within seconds is the stuff of acting legend – and she’s only thirteen years old.
While we have recently been subjected to various screen dominating creatures like Edward Cullen – designed solely to seduce us into a fearful obsession, or something dreamy like that – the zombies of Zombieland positively demand our attention with their putrid physiques, deathly groans, complete lack of intelligence and ingenuity only for devouring other humans. The transitions people make from human to zombie are quick, catching out other unsuspecting humans. This sparks entertaining scenarios of genuine comedic gold, and demonstrate rules that Columbus must adhere to in order to survive. A poor fat bastard is run down by fitter zombies, a guy gets mauled while on the crapper, a mother stuck with car pool duty for a bunch of five-year-old zombie girls – these instances of death for the subjected humans become instances of education for our navigating narrator, and a ton of laughs for us in the audience. Titles appear indicating which number rule we have reached and what it is called – interesting, despite becoming clumsy, chunky blocks of text that dominate the frame at important moments.
As the guys verse the sisters and cat-and-mouse themselves between ownership of anything of value left in the destroyed world – hummers, Cadilacs and a shit load of guns are popular bargaining tools – they realise they must band together to make their way to California, and ultimately into the mansion of legendary actor Bill Murray – who plays himself fantastically. But watch it for yourself to see just how well this film finishes, finding resolution in a simple and content place, without ruin of running for too long or to little.
Well fleshed out characters, heaps of action, funny situations and snappy one liners make this film a success. The eighty-eight minute film was well written by screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and uncredited re-writes from screenwriting master William Goldman ensure Zombieland hits its mark at every turn. Critics could easily tear Zombieland to shreds – but in consideration of the light hearted spirit, the audacious learnings on finding yourself and your true family and the awesome zombie kills, Zombieland is fast looking like one of the unmissable popcorn movies of ‘09.
A great laugh with heartfelt musings on the end of civilization and on life as prey. Well worth it just for the gazillion funny references to other films scattered throughout.