Mainstream media would have you believe that ZOMBIELAND is this year’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and they would be partially right. Both are zombie comedies, both feature wacky characters dispatching of zombies in non-traditional ways, both seem to have a fixation on simple dessert items (Cornetto in SHAUN, Twinkies in ZOMBIELAND), and both have a little bit of rom-com sprinkled into their mix, making the zom-com an official sub-genre. However, SHAUN has some serious drama in as well, which seperates it from ZOMBIELAND, as this one is a full-on comedy. As a matter of fact (save for one less-than-a-minute long scene), ZOMBIELAND is more comedy than horror or zombie flick, making it more along the lines of GHOSTBUSTERS.
Yeah, I said it, ZOMBIELAND is this generation’s GHOSTBUSTERS. People tend to forget that GHOSTBUSTERS mixed the horror and grue with the comedy, and just tend to remember it as a comedy, but it’s really a horror comedy. Same goes for ZOMBIELAND. Sure, the opening credits of this seem to be preparing you for a gore-filled nightmarish journey into a zombie apocalypse, but the movie pulls a bait-and-switch moments after the credits end. Zombies do appear throughout and are disposed of pretty inventively, the gore levels and terror levels never really progress past those opening credits (which were pretty amazing with their mix of zombie chaos speed-ramping and Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”). No, moments after the credits end, we meet Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) who is one of the last survivors of the zombie plague. Columbus a little bit like 70s era Woody Allen, and the only reason he has survived this long is by a detailed set of rules he follows. The rules range from simple like “Keep Fit” to more complex ones like “Avoid Bathrooms” (going into a bathroom allows you to be cornered).
Incidentally, his name isn’t really Columbus, but that’s what he’s called because it’s where he’s heading. Everyone in the movie is like that. No names are shared, because, chances are, you’re gonna die and names mean attachment. This is one of the things I love about this flick. Everything here seems fully realized and fleshed out. Most zombie movies are content to just provide zombie action and little else, but not here. Rules are given, little quirks (the city name bit, for example) are established, and there is no huge over-reaching plot. This is a story about four people surviving in Zombieland. There’s no “zombie cure” BS like in I AM LEGEND, no military activity (like in, well, every other zombie movie), and you never see the origin of the plague (there’s a minor reference to Mad Cow disease). Nope, ZOMBIELAND is here to tell how these four characters end up together and that’s it. I, for one, found this refreshing.
Plus, you have to love a movie that creates a character as memorable as Tallahassee (played by Woody Harrelson). Woody has always been a solid actor, but (outside of Mickey Knox) he’s never been given a true chance to let his freak flag fly. ZOMBIELAND gives him that chance. He’s a good ole country boy who loves killing zombies, loves Willie Nelson, realizes that this is the end of the world and there’s nothing he can do about it, and wants the world’s last Twinkie. Yeah, you read that right, the last Twinkie. Tallahassee’s plot arc involves a search for the last remaining Twinkie on Earth. You have to learn to enjoy the little things.
Listen, I could go into detail about the plot of ZOMBIELAND, but it would be robbing it of some of the amazing treasures there are to found. The simplest way to describe it is that Columbus meets Tallahassee, and the two of them run into sisters Little Rock and Wichita (Abagail Breslin and Emma Stone, respectively) who are on their way to Pacific Playland, a theme park in LA. The two sisters have heard that Playland is the last zombie-free area on the planet, but, in an interesting twist on the genre, know that the idea of zombie-free is BS. They’re heading there to just have a little fun in this world, because it’s not going anywhere.
I love that idea. These characters are surviving, but even in a situation like this (zombie infestation), you have to enjoy the little things. Normally, zombie flicks get bogged down in the melodrama and the darkness, but not here. Like I said, ZOMBIELAND is a comedy first and foremost, and a zombie film second.
Facts are, ZOMBIELAND is incredibly funny. It’s one of those movies that you can see yourself watching over and over again and never getting bored of it. The quotability level here is off-the-charts, rivaling even flicks like ANCHORMAN, CADDYSHACK, and even GHOSTBUSTERS. All of the performances are spot-on, with Harrelson leading the way with what is, quite possibly, the most iconic role of his career. Eisenberg is funny as well, even if his schtick is getting pretty familiar now (this really is a variation of his part in ADVENTURELAND). Plus, there’s a celebrity cameo here that is one of the best I’ve ever seen, rivaling even Tom Cruise in TROPIC THUNDER. I guarantee you that you will be walking out of theater talking about the cameo and how funny it was.
As for the ladies, well, they almost steal the entire show. Emma Stone, who I’m completely smitten with now, brings a nice sexy action heroine vibe here. And I’m pretty shocked at how good Abagail Breslin is here, as she was the Wild Card of the bunch. Sure, she’s pretty amazing in most of her roles, but I would have never guessed she’d be able to pull off pre-teen zombie killer. Too bad the movie, more or less, puts them in the damsels-in-distress role for third act, because these two ladies rival Tallahassee in levels of pure badassery. Be sure to keep an eye out for hottie Amber Heard as Columbus’ neighbor, 406. Her cameo is short, but absolutely hilarious.
In short, ZOMBIELAND is one of the funniest movies you’ll see this year. As a matter of fact, I could see this becoming one of the all-time greats if audiences take a liking it to it. And if it weren’t for some last act goofiness (trust me, you’ll know the moment when it happens), I’d be loading a solid six adamantium bullets into the chamber. But, as it stands, I’ll give it five (don’t have any half bullets, otherwise it’d be a five and a half) adamantium bullets out of six.