***** out of 5
Rated R for horror violence/gore and language.
In the annals of zombie movies there’s definitely a broad share of the good, the bad and the ugly. It may not be my favorite sub-genre of horror but I do enjoy my fair share of the undead rising from death to munch on hapless passersby. Whether it be straight out horror to the occasionally played as thriller to the outright loving spoof, there’s a great many variety when it comes to these types of films.
Over the last few years there have been a lot of zombie movies. Some of the better include: 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” the British goods “Boy Eats Girl” and “Shaun of the Dead,” “Planet Terror” and of course the great duo “28 Days and Weeks Later.” The independent market seems to be the place to find most of the more expendable flicks but there are way more in that department not worth mentioning.
This year has seen possibly only one other great horror film, “Drag Me to Hell” but thankfully with Halloween fast approaching and October finally upon us we have at least one more film to be thankful for – “Zombieland.” Director Ruben Fleischer may be a first time theatrical director but in no way does it ever become apparent. With a fusion of Zack Snyder (lots of slow motion but never an overuse), some very gallows humor, a brilliant sense of awareness and its finger brilliantly on the pulse of pop culture comes a splatacular little movie that quickly moves to the top of the best films of the year. Yes, even if it happens to be a zombie movie.
While this is Paul Wernick’s first outing as feature film writer, co-writer Rhett Reese has some surprising credits behind him – “Cruel Intentions 3,” and the kid films “Clifford’s Really Big Movie,” Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.,” and Disney’s “Tarzan II” and “Dinosaurs.” Not particularly the type of films to generate a hilariously balls out, red Karo syrup splattered, and scare filled zombie feature. But, just like the writing team behind “Cats and Dogs’” Glen Ficarra and John Requa brought us “Bad Santa” I guess everyone’s allowed to have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Jesse Eisenberg could be instantly played off as a Michael Cera wannabe if he wasn’t such an incredibly better actor. From his first few films “The Village,” “Cursed” and “The Squid and the Whale” he brought instantly likeable characters to at least two instantly forgettable films. Last seen in “Adventureland” he now brings us a double feature year that should hopefully keep him promptly placed in lead roles after his hilariously endearing goofball turn here.
Woody Harrelson may be a bigger name than the rest of the cast but that has more to do with how long he’s been around. Playing a pair of sisters, Emma Stone (“Superbad” and “The House Bunny”) and Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine” herself) bring on the funny also as they outwit the mismatched bickering odd couple of Eisenberg and Harrelson at every turn.
The world has been taken over by zombies. That’s the plain premise the film wastes no time explaining and moving on from. Columbus (Eisenberg) is assumingly the last man alive in Texas and is headed east to find his family in hopes of them still being alive. While walking a vacated highway he is picked up by Tallahassee (Harrelson) after a very quick Sergio Leone stand off. Tallahassee is instantly annoyed by Columbus but appears to be very much in need of company to keep himself from going completely insane in a humanless world. After a hunt for Twinkies in a convenience store lands them getting car-jacked by Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) they serendipitously meet up again later and decide to join forces to head west to an abandoned amusement park where Wichita can let Little Rock have the chance to be a kid at least one more time.
Encounters are had and everyone gets their moment to be a hero as the cast hilariously marches towards the end of the runtime. Director Fleischer gives us a Speedy Gonzales breakneck pace and brings on the scary when the timing is right even if it happens to coincide with yet another hilarious line of dialogue. The best part of the film is that it definitely will take a few viewings to catch all the spectacularly penned one liners sprinkled throughout a very rare zombie movie that has its meat cake and gets to eat it too with a great amount of heart thrown into the mix for good measure. It’s not too big of a shock that this is being released so early into the month as I am sure that just like myself; everyone who sees it will have a great hunger to see it over and over again.