At The Picture Show
We're gonna be doin' one thing, and one thing only - killin' zombies . . . and in 'Zombieland,' that'll work just fine
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Screenplay: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and
Rated R / 1 hour, 28 minutes
(out of four)
You've gotta hand it to zombies. Like a savvy entrepreneur, they've managed to
carve out quite a place for themselves in this world. In their limited time as part of
the popular consciousness, they've managed to continually reinvent themselves
and stay relevant. That "silly" idea George Romero had 40-plus years ago that
popularized zombies as we know them has had quite a lasting impact. (I'll resist
the temptation to make one of those "they just won't die!" jokes. Too late? Oh
And let's be honest - as the undead go, they're a step above their vampire brethren,
no matter how many teenage girls try to convince you otherwise. I mean, at least
zombies are straightforward about what they want. At the end of the day, you can
respect them for that. Vampires, though . . . so passive-aggressive!
What zombies seem to have undergone over
the last decade or two is a period of self-actualization. Specifically, they've
realized they're better suited to comedy than pure horror. That's not to say they
can't be scary - only that opening up their comedic talents has brought magnificent
delights. And has done wonders for their shelf life and posterity.
The best zombie movies I've seen since the original Night of the Living Dead are
Peter Jackson's under-seen Dead Alive and the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg modern
classic, Shaun of the Dead. In something of the same vein is Ruben Fleischer's
Zombieland, a comedy that takes place in an American wasteland in which all
towns, big and small, have been ravaged by a zombie outbreak.
We are kept apprised of the situation by our loyal friend and humble narrator,
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) - known as such because it's his hometown - who has
managed to map out a road to survival that few others have been savvy enough to
What's amusing is how virtually the entirety of
his survival diagnosis seems to have been culled from the pitfalls seen in other
zombie movies. For instance, one of his rules is to always check the backseat.
Because anyone who's ever seen a zombie movie knows, if you ever get in a car
and don't look behind you, your former best friend who is now gruesomely blood-spattered and frothing at the mouth will be right there waiting for you, and he will
But that's not even my favorite car-related rule. That would be Rule No. 4:
"Seatbelts." Once again, we all know how such a seemingly minor oversight can
come back to bite you.
And we can't forget Rule No. 1, "Cardio," exemplified in a great early scene in
which a pair of zombies tries to attack Columbus in his car, and he proceeds to
outrun them by running around in a circle. Job well done. Zombies, as we all
know, are not known for their speed. (Except the speedy ones in 28 Days Later . . .
though some purists reading this will insist that those things weren't "technically"
While Columbus is a self-described loner, he finds himself part of a group of
survivors making their way across the country - the eccentric, zombie-killin'
redneck Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and a team of sisters played by Emma
Stone and Abigail Breslin.
While it doesn't reach the unforgettable status
of Dead Alive or Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is a consistently charming - if
such an adjective can be used for a movie about slaughtering reanimated corpses -
and well-made horror-comedy that takes advantage of its star attractions' comedic
But let me also say that the film's best sequence occurs without any zombies
appearing on screen at all. It involves the unexpected cameo of one of the great
comic actors, one of my favorites - but his appearance is too great to spoil. Let it
simply be said that he provides the film's funniest moments - and the way the
filmmakers resolve his appearance in the story is every bit as inspired. But we'll
leave that discussion for another day. In the case of Zombieland, there's only one
thing funnier than a zombie - and he is it.
Read more by Chris Bellamy