Zombieland (Blu-ray)

To be honest, I wasn't expecting a huge amount from this zom-com, but I was pleasantly surprised. There are plenty of laughs and some original zombie situations and action that added up to a huge amount of fun. But it isn't perfect.

Columbus (Eisenberg) is one of the few surviving humans after a zombie apocalypse, sometime in the very near future. To stay alive, he has developed a set of rules to protect himself from the zombies, which continually crop up through the film. They include such gems as the "double tap" (always shoot a zombie in the head after it's fallen to the ground, never assume you got it with the first shot), never be a hero (obviously), the importance of cardio (it's very important to be able to outrun the undead) and "beware of bathrooms" (too often, you go into a public toilet and find a zombie waiting in the cubicle. Or, at least, I do).

Columbus is doing pretty well for himself, and his nickname gives away the fact that he is heading for Georgia to find his parents (all of the characters are named after the destination they're hoping to reach in an odyssey to find loved ones. Columbus also dreams of having a girlfriend - and actually gets pretty close early on, if only he didn't have to kill her with a toilet seat lid because she's a zombie. As luck would have it, the awkward teen meets up with a seasoned cowboy zombie killer, the wandering cool-dude Tallahassee (Harrelson), who is only interested in three things - his dead puppy, finding a Twinkie somewhere in the post-apocalyptic landscape, and slaughtering zombies with an increasingly broad selection of inventive weapons. These two agree to work together and thus the road movie begins. It isn't long before they encounter two girls (Breslin and the extremely hot Stone) and the unlikely group have to find a way of existing together, and helping each other out, as they try to find a way to live through the horror of Zombieland.

This is a film that's brimming with fun. After a shaky first act, the set pieces just keep on coming, and some of them are truly fantastic. The climax of the film is set in a California theme park, where we get to ride around with Harrelson in a runaway rollercoaster as he shoots zombies who are jumping at him. In fact, all of the zombie attack moments are handled very well - just as in the film to which this will doubtless be compared, Shaun of the Dead, the zombies are never truly scary, but they are always threatening. They also never look silly.

Now let's talk about the gore. There's a lot of gore. Innards being ripped out, plenty of green bile coming out of mouths and a very healthy dose of exploding heads are all included, all with a tremendous sense of fun (there's that word again). The movie also includes what is very possibly the best movie-star cameo appearance of all time. I really, really don't want to give away the name of the celebrity who appears, but it's someone brilliant, and his extremely funny contribution is the absolute highlight of the film. Zombieland does take a while to really get going. Setup scenes with main character Columbus seem like nothing new at all, and it's all too-clear that Eisenberg seems to constantly be doing an impression of Michael Cera, which is a shame. In fact, his character never takes off in the way it's meant to, and constant Wonder Years-style voiceovers are just annoying. The whole film could have benefited from losing a lot of the romantic subplot too - it's not handled with the skill of Shaun of the Dead, and just gets in the way of the fun.

But this effort from pretty much total unknown director Fleischer (who does an impressive job) is very enjoyable. Iif it's zombies and laughs you like, and you can forgive some slightly amateur moments, you won't be disappointed.

EXTRAS *** An audio commentary with actors Harrelson and Eisenberg, director Fleischer, and writers Reese and Wernick; deleted scenes; a making-of featurette called In Search of Zombieland; a featurette called Zombieland is Your Land, which details the creation of the world of Zombieland; visual effects progression scenes; theatrical trailers; Beyond the Graveyard, a picture-in-picture track which Includes behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, animatics and more; and movieIQ.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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