The best zombie exploitation film since Shaun of the Dead. With Twinkies.
In yet another zombie apocalypse, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), so named for his intended destination, has survived the walking dead due to strict adherence to a set of rules. Along the way, he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a deranged fellow who seems to really enjoy killing zombies but isn’t exactly a people person. After meeting up with another pair of survivors (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), the four make their way toward Los Angeles, but just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way…
Zombieland operates and succeeds on the same principles that made Shaun of the Dead so enjoyable. It’s a spoof of the zombie genre while at the same time honoring and becoming a zombie film in its own right. Narrated from Jesse Eisenberg’s point of view, his list of rules almost becomes a character unto itself with each rule molding itself to a scene, a living game show graphic with a twisted sense of humor. Similar dark comedic elements permeate the story but just enough to see past the certain eventual doom and hope that everything turns out for the bloody best… well, not for the zombies.
While the story centers around Columbus, it’s Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Tallahassee that is most surprising. The filmmakers cleverly bank on what we know of the kind of character Tallahassee should be, then take it in a different direction each time it starts to feel comfortable. The entire film manages to do the same thing on a subtle level. After all, these people are doomed and doing things that should rightly get them killed, but while each makes bad decisions, they make good enough decisions to survive.
Unlike Shaun of the Dead, the ultimate hope left for these heroes is merely in staying alive together, the model for a new-age post-apocalyptic family. The science fiction element dictates that the key to survival in an inhuman world is retaining your humanity, but the comedic element reminds us how much fun killing zombies can be, especially when you’re creative. They’re just stupid monsters that will kill and eat you if you don’t kill them first, right? Just remember to enjoy the little things when your world has gone straight to hell. May I suggest a good zombie movie now and then?
Three and half skull recommendation out of four