by Mel Valentin
Just when you thought that whole undead horror sub-genre was "Dead and Buried" (sorry, couldn’t resist), along comes "Zombieland," a post-apocalyptic horror-action-comedy written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Ruben Fleischer. With a scene-stealing turn from Woody Harrelson, a painfully self-aware slacker-geek hero, a hilarious cameo from a “Big Hollywood Star,” perfect balanced horror and comedic elements, super-lean pacing, and, of course, dollops of R-rated blood and gore (to make horror fans more than happy), outrageous sight gags and one-liners, "Zombieland" will set the bar for horror-action-comedies (or, to be accurate, re-set the bar) at a higher level than it’s been in several years.Zombieland jumps into the post-apocalyptic zombie action comedy mode almost immediately, as the un-brave, slacker-geek hero Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) lays out the rules he’s developed to survive in a zombie-eat-man-and-woman-and-child world via voiceover narration, starting with the first rule, keeping in shape (the better to outrun the fast zombies), the “double tap” (making sure recently dispatched zombies are actually “dead”), always wearing a seatbelt, and haphazardly until he gets to the seventeenth rule (don’t be a hero). At least initially, Columbus lucked out. His anti-social behavior (e.g., spending hours in front of his computer playing Worlds of Warcraft) saved him from the zombie-causing virus, even helping him spend quality time with a neighbor only identified as “406” (Amber Heard).
"An amusement park ride... with guts, gore, and grins."
Post-apocalypse, however, Columbus direly needs companionship, even if he thinks (and says) otherwise. He finds a riding partner (and exact opposite), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), on a deserted stretch of highway. Tallahassee is everything Columbus isn’t: he’s fearless, obnoxious, vulgar, but easily offended. He’s a fearless zombie killer. He’s good at what he does and he takes great pleasure from killing zombies (don’t worry, there’s some backstory to partially explain his badassery). He also has a weakness for Twinkies. On one search for Twinkies inside a zombie-infested supermarket, Columbus and Tallahassee encounter Wichita (Emma Stone) and her 12-year old sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Not surprisingly, Columbus becomes smitten with Wichita, but Wichita and Little Rock have serious trust issues.
Zombies seem to hold an almost irresistible attraction for filmmakers, at least since Danny Boyle reinvigorated the undead sub-genre six years ago with 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder did the same with the 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg added a parodic spin to the undead sub-genre a year later with Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland picks up the fast, ravenous zombies or Infected and throws into the horror-comedy meat grinder perfected in Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 almost two decades earlier.
Luckily, Reese, Wernick, and Fleischer don’t get bogged down in homage to their favorite directors or films, but instead mix elements drawn from horror, action, comedy (splatstick, mostly, but not only), buddy film, teen romance, and road movie into a wholly entertaining mash-up. Every character gets their quirks and backstories, humorously underlined with a sight gag or one-liner, but over the length of Zombieland’s brief 83-minute running time (a running time that will leave most moviegoers clamoring for more), develops into something that’s more than the sum of its (dismembered, decapitated, distended body) parts, but an effective, affective horror-action-comedy that manages to be both gross (and disgusting) and engrossing simultaneously.Zombies (or more specifically, killing zombies) offer the ultimate in consequence-free, guilt-free, immersive entertainment. After walking out of "Zombieland," moviegoers will understandably want to know when they can play the videogame adaptation. Apparently, the answer is “Not soon,” given that a videogame isn’t in development yet (solid box office returns could and probably would change that). Missing videogame tie-in aside, "Zombieland" is unabashedly, unashamedly gory, bloody, pop culture-quoting fun. Really what else should we ask from horror-comedy-action flicks? Not much, actually. And whatever you do, don’t look up "Zombieland" on IMDB or Wikipedia. You’ll regret it later (both reveal the “Big Hollywood Star’s” identity).
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18370&reviewer=402
originally posted: 10/02/09 15:36:17