When I think about recent zombie films that stand out to me as being truly enjoyable, I tend to focus more on the comedy zombie films, except for the odd exception such as Dead Snow or Pontypool. Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies and this, Zombieland have all been films that I thoroughly enjoyed and can, and do, rewatch plenty of times because they’re, simply, entertaining.
Zombieland follows our lead, a shy and awkward college student named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) who is attempting to reach his family in Ohio. While on the road he runs into a seemingly unhinged and angry zombie-killer named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and two manipulative, though strong-willed, sisters called Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone & Abigail Breslin). We follow our four lead characters as they screw each other over, take out hordes of the living dead in inventive, and often comical, ways, and we are given some hilarious little moments in the midst of it too, with cameos that will bring a smile to your face. It is, underneath the teeth that hold soggy-flesh between them, and the blood-splattered exterior, a road movie, a buddy movie, and a coming-of-age film, and also, a damn fine comedy flick to boot.
The style in which director Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad) shoots the film is what initially makes it stand out amongst the pack, the fast-pace and “survival guide” way of showing how Columbus has managed to avoid being eaten alive by flesh-seeking walkers is done brilliantly, and the sleek and gory scenes that open the film have a strong way of welcoming us to the party, so to speak. What follows is a mix of traditional obstruction-filled-road-movie and comedy horror but with a modern edge and some good dialogue, thanks to writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, for our characters to sink their teeth into. Yeah, I went there.
Harrelson, whose character Tallahassee is hunting for Twinkies as much as he is hunting zombies, is a hoot from the moment he steps into the film. A violent weapon swinging redneck with a good heart, Harrelson looks to be having a blast in his role. Eisenberg pulls off the awkward nerd act well and his character provides a new type of hero, an unlikely survivor due to his attention to detail and fear of the outside world. Stone and Breslin, as the sisters Wichita and Little Rock, have a nice chemistry and their glances at one another as they manipulate a situation is fun to watch. Stone was coming into her own here and becoming a big star, having already done Superbad at this point, and its easy to see why she became so successful, she shines throughout the movie.
With cinematography that looks great, a cast who look to be having brain-smashing fun, good writing, and some truly brilliant comedy moments, Zombieland’s success isn’t hard to understand, it is just a top notch entry into the zombie film history books, and while it breaks from tradition and doesn’t necessarily take the idea of a zombie apocalypse as seriously as some films, it still brings plenty to the table in a way that felt fresh, interesting and thoroughly exciting to watch.