There are few things in popular culture more over-done than Zombies. They’ve been everywhere for what seems like an eternity, be it video games, films, books; nowhere is same from the shambling horrors, and like many people, I am truly sick of the sight of them.
There can’t be that many things left to do with them after all this time, I can even name at least one zombie-based musical (it’s called Zombie Prom, and it’s terrible) and yet they never seem to go away.
All you can really do with zombies these days is lean into just how ridiculously omnipresent they are, you certainly shouldn’t take them seriously anymore, and this brings me neatly to the subject of today’s review: Zombieland.
Zombieland is, as you can probably guess, set in a world overrun by vampires. Only kidding, of course, it’s an America that is over-run with the undead, and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) believes he may be the last survivor in the country, indeed he has devised a list of rules for his continued survival, but this is soon proven untrue when he comes across Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and the two set off across Zombieland together.
It is one of those instances of a film taking me by surprise, to the extent of me genuinely belly-laughing at certain parts, and audibly saying: ‘this is great!’ to my boyfriend, who was watching with me at the time. A film rarely makes me giddy with joy, but this is a movie that accomplished that.
My thought process at the start of the movie was more along the lines of: ‘Oh great, another zombie film.’ but by the end, I was wanting to watch the sequel straight away, so that’s as good an indicator as any as to my enjoyment.
The films greatest success is in its ability to not take itself seriously in the slightest (well, for the most part) by making its cliche setting seem funny as well as dangerous it gives itself more leeway to use the tired setting as a launching pad, and it runs with its setting too.
Despite this, however, it still manages to make the threat of the zombie seem dangerous, simply by their sheer number and ravenous nature, they’re still a threat, despite the light-hearted tone.
The characters are a mixed bag of misfits thrown together by a hostile environment, all with conflicting personalities, who all eventually grow on each other as time goes on, it sounds cliche, and it probably is, but there’s a few nice moments of character justification for this.
The film chooses its moments to be more serious very wisely, using them as a way to develop the characters making sure they’re not wasted or throw-away. The highlights of these moments being Tallahassee’s reveal later in the film that puts his character’s actions into perspective, as well as the tender relationship built between Columbus and Wichita (Emma Stone) who is picked up along the way, with her sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).
As for the films funnier moments, there are very few misses. The absolute peak of the film is, fittingly, its finale. As the gang run around killing zombies in a fairground, riding rollercoasters as they go, shotgun in hand. This is a spectacular finale to a hilarious film that had me beaming from ear-to-ear with each new set-piece.
It’s a film that will leave you with an overwhelming feeling of unbridled joy if I were American I’d have been hollering at the screen, but as a reserved Englishman, I instead wore a Cheshire Cat-style grin and felt thoroughly entertained.
As I said, the characters are nothing new, but they have a certain flair in their presentation. Woody Harrelson is at his chaotic best as the slightly unhinged leader of the group, armed with a massive gun and balls the size of space hopper (metaphorically, of course, you should consult your doctor if your balls in any way resemble space hoppers) he takes on the hordes with unbridled glee, and searches madly for the last Twinkie, in the same way a firefighter looks for survivors in a burning building.
Eisenberg and Stone are also wonderful in their roles, with Eisenberg’s characters list of rules giving the film the fresh through-line it needs to stand apart from the crowd; and the two characters eventual romance just adds a nice cherry on top of all the character-building the movie had done.
The film also contains perhaps the greatest cameo appearance by anyone not named Stan Lee that adds another self-referential wrinkle to the comedy of the film. For those that know the film, they’ll know what I’m talking about.
As for the films look, it’s visceral and raw with plenty of blood and guts to sell the danger and true horror of the shuffling monsters, although it isn’t used egregiously, only when it is necessary.
The only big criticism I have of the film is its use of special effects. In places, it was blindingly obvious, and practical effects would have done a much better job. I can only be slightly miffed at this though, as the film didn’t have an extravagant budget, it made do with what it had, even if it did look a bit out of place.
In conclusion, then, no film with zombies in it has ever made me laugh as much as Zombieland did. It’s set pieces were fresh and exhilarating, its characters fun and varied, and most importantly, it wasn’t afraid to look stupid to elicit laughs. It is the purest comedy film I’ve seen in a long time, and it even has the hints of horror with the inclusion of zombies to make it a timely Halloween treat. A bloody great time.