ZOMBIELAND (2009) / Horror-Comedy

Running Length: 88 minutes
MPAA Classification: R for horror violence/gore and language.

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Producer: Gavin Polone
Screenplay: Paul Wernick, Rhett Reese

I get Zombieland. I get where it’s coming from. Nowadays, most of the horror films that come out are just no good. They’re not scary enough, plain and simple. They rely on the standard clichés of the horror films of the past and in this day and age, those clichés are so overused that they’re no longer effective. That’s where Zombieland comes in. Granted, it can be scary at times, but ultimately, Zombieland is not a horror film, nor does it ever really try to be. It’s a comedy with horror elements, and I’ll admit that most of the time it works.

The zombie comedy genre experienced a revival upon the release of the critically-acclaimed Shaun of the Dead, which I still feel is a bit overrated. (Nonetheless, I found it somewhat enjoyable and occasionally funny in the mildest sense.) Like Shaun of the DeadZombieland is a zombie comedy as well and for some odd reason the two are often compared, even though they are different in almost every aspect aside from the fact that they both deal with zombies in a humorous manner. That’s the absolute extent of their similarity. Of course, this is irrelevant and doesn’t really matter, but I just find the entire ordeal annoying.

Anyway, the story of Zombieland transpires in a post-apocalyptic America, where most of the nation has been “zombie-fied” due to a mutated strain of mad cow disease. Unlike other zombie films of the past, this is an entirely plausible and logical epidemic, which is something I have rarely seen. Our hero is “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), a college student whose name is derived from the town in Ohio that he is traveling to. He’s on his way home. Along the way, he encounters “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), a redneck and certified zombie-killer on his way to Florida, and the two take up as traveling companions. Eventually, they come across “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and her little sister “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin).

From here, Zombieland becomes little more than your average road movie. The gang finds themselves headed towards Pacific Playland, a zombie-free amusement park on the West Coast. Now, how the park remains so free of the undead is a mystery to me; a mystery that logic will undoubtedly spoil. But that is neither here nor there because while I found particular moments of Zombieland not to my liking, I enjoyed the film as a whole.

My fondest performance came from Woody Harrelson, and it’s definitely one of the best that he’s had in years. (Who knew that it would be in a movie like this?) He can switch from being funny to being emotional to just kicking ass and not once does his acting ever falter. Jesse Eisenberg does a good job as the lead, creating a likable and reasonable character, and Abigail Breslin is her usual self, but I had a hard time with Emma Stone. I suspect that it’s mainly because I find her to be such a cold actress, even though I liked her in Superbad. Here, she’s monotonous and delivers her lines without emotion.

Acting isn’t something that should be relied upon in a movie like Zombieland. It’s more about style and the millions of ways that zombies can be killed and it does a good job in both areas. Ruben Fleischer, the director, is a man unknown to me and I know none of his earlier work, but he contributes a good sense of direction here, especially for a first-timer. Now, while most of the humor and events are premeditated, there are certain elements that are original, both visually and in the script, and let’s not forget — let’s not forget — that hilarious cameo. I can guarantee that that scene will generate the most laughs.

It does end the way that you expected it to, but there is enough room left open for a possible sequel, which would be a definite delight. Zombieland is fun, harmless entertainment, but certainly not for the weak of stomach.

Final rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

© 2012 Stephen Earnest

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