Zombieland Review

25 02 2010

I was so over zombie films. To me, Shaun of the Dead had pretty much said it all, with a loving wink and a smile. I saw the growing list of movies with “Zombie” or “Dead” in the title in my Netflix instant browser on the XBOX, and rolled my eyes. God, I thought, will anyone ever make a zombie movie really worth watching ever again? Or is that little sub-genre of horror totally played out for the time being?

So Zombieland came and went to the theater, and I hardly blinked. The previews looked funny enough, but I still wasn’t sure about it. And lately I’ve gotten kind of stingy with my ten bucks (twelve after six p.m. – yikes!), so yeah, I didn’t catch this in the theater. But after hearing everyone and their mother tell me how awesome it was, I Netflixed it. And I was joyously surprised. The movie is amazing, and so much more than the American Shaun of the Dead I was expecting.

Right from the beginning, director Reuben Fleischer smacks you across the face and tells you this thing isn’t fucking around. The opening two montages, the first set to Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and giving a broad view of the plague taking over America, and the second showing the results of not following Columbus’s “rules” are equal parts disgusting and hilarious. There is a shot in the second montage showing a woman being thrown from a car that perfectly encapsulates Zombieland’s tone. Shooting out of the windshield of her car, a woman is shown hanging in mid-air in slo-mo, her terrified expression so over the top you can’t help but laugh, and the slo-mo drags out what you know is coming. Then when her head hits the pavement with a nasty smack, blood splattering everywhere, and she skids across the road leaving a crimson smear behind her, it’s a pay off so grossly, cartoonishly violent, that the wife and I were rolling around on the couch bawling. Call us sick bastards, but if you don’t find that funny, then never watch this movie, because it is full of the darkest kind of gallows humor, and gore played for laughs.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Columbus (everyone goes by their hometown instead of their real names), a terrified young man with a strict list of 32 rules that so far have kept him relatively safe. This is the kind of role that lately has gone to Michael Cera, the nebbish, cowardly, unsure geek who is invariably in way over his head. Eisenberg really walks that line between annoying and endearing, but he pulls it off well, better than Cera has done lately. By the end I was honestly rooting for him. Emma Stone plays Witchita, with emphasis on “Witch” (horrible pun, I know). A femme fatale with huge manga eyes ringed in black mascara, Stone shows the heart under Witchita’s cruel and manipulative exterior, but never quite makes you believe a girl this smoking hot would go for the goonish Columbus. Little Rock, Witchita’s sister played by Abigail Breslin, is a little less manipulative of the two girls, but her comic timing and great chemistry with the cast (especially her exasperation with Columbus) really sells her wiser-than-her-years demeanor.

But the cast member who has gotten the most press out of this movie (and rightfully so) is Woody Harrelson as Tallahasse. The wife mentioned how good it was to see him and, even though I know he can do this type of redneck badass role in his sleep, I have to agree. His scenes with Breslin are some of my favorites, with the two of them bickering back and forth over what Breslin’s character doesn’t know about 80’s pop culture like a brother and sister who have been sniping back and forth for years. You can tell Harrelson is just having a ball slaughtering the undead and playing really, really broad. Tallahasse is every badass cliché you’ve seen in action movie heroes, and that’s normally this character’s home. Putting a damn super hero into a zombie film is genius, a brilliant move by the writers, and something distinctly American.

I know pretty much everyone has seen this movie, but, if you haven’t don’t let anyone spoil you on ANYTHING. There is a cameo that is nothing short of brilliant, and even knowing who it was going into the film, I was still surprised how it played out. Absolutely hysterical.

Of course I recommend Zombieland very, very highly. How could I not? It’s like peanut butter and chocolate: a zombie comedy and an action/buddy picture. It’s so different from other zombie movies, so original and fresh, that it’s one of the few movies I would love to see a sequel to. And really, what higher praise can you give?

Follow me on Twitter! @Charliehamlin




One response

26 02 2010

I highly agree. It probably shouldn’t win any awards, but for what it is (an 80-minute long popcorn flick) it’s really fun. It’s one of those movies I’ll put on if I just want to turn my brain off and be entertained.

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