Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie Review: Zombieland

Using the template established by 28 Days Later, and bouncing off a little Shaun of the Dead, the new movie Zombieland gives us a fun-filled romp across a zombie-filled American West.

What more do you need, really?

Well, if you're The Boy, a lot more. I had a hard time getting him to see this one. The potential for stupid was huge, and director Fleischer, along with writers Reese and Wernick, don't have a big dossier. I kind of blanked on Woody Harrelson—whom he actually knows from a bunch of movies at this point—and while I remembered Jesse Eisenberg from Adventureland, I had forgotten that Emma Stone was his love interest in that movie, as well. Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine rounds out the core cast.

But he doesn't usually go see movies because of the actors anyway.

But I persuaded him and he loved it. It's a brisk movie, just an hour-and-a-half which is pretty solidly plotted, and mostly pretty light for a post-apocalyptic movie. It dispenses with a number of the genre traditions set up by Romero's Night of the Living Dead to good end. It's not real scary, despite a few good shocks in the beginning, but it is massively gory.

Possibly the goriest I've seen this year. Possibly the goriest last year, too.

The gore is very sincerely done and well-executed. For a relatively low-budget movie, it does a very convincing job of gore-spewing and head-smashing and so on.

If you're squeamish, in other words, steer clear.

Anyway, the plot basically concerns Eisenberg as an unlikely survivor who crosses path with the more macho Harrelson as they journey to their respective homes. Harrelson's character likes to call everyone by their home town, so Eisenberg becomes Columbus, while he's Tallahassee. Stone and Breslin are Witchita and Little Rock, respectively.

Columbus, formerly a shut-in, has managed to survive by compiling a simple list of rules he always follows. Things like strapping on the seatbelt and being extra-cautious of bathrooms—the latter being a virtual zombie movie cliché. These give the movie a nice start, funny and in good contrast with Tallahassee's more ad hoc style of engagement.

This is mostly dropped in the middle of the movie which may or may not have been a good idea. It resurfaces again toward the end. I have to say, even at ninety minutes, I actually thought the end of act 2 and the beginning of act 3 was kind of a drag.

The movie is really well plotted up to this point. There's a gag bit in the middle which is hilarious but seems to end the movie's drive.

Still it all ends well enough, and there were a lot of ending clichés avoided as well. Where Shaun of the Dead ends with an excellent (but very standard) zombie beatdown, this stays true to it's own feel, which is nice.

I'm being vague about details because a lot of the delight of this movie comes from its originality, and the light character arcs which manage to be pretty good despite being very light.

If you can get past the (over the top) gore, you can have yourself a good time.


  1. I think this movie lost it at the cameo appearance, but it was still lots of fun. It maybe erred in trying to be too many things at the same time.

    I don't think the hinted at sequel would be very good.

  2. Yeah. The cameo put things squarely in the comedy camp--almost the camp comedy camp--which was jarring, and then it never really got its mo' back.


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