Vampires seem to have cornered the mythical horror creature market these days, but zombies are staging a takeover. Zombieland, the latest film featuring the undead, turns typical horror movie undertones into overtones, creating a hilarious, gory, active and intellectually sharp zombie movie in a completely new way.
Refreshingly, Zombieland doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows its premise of an end of days involving the living dead is pretty ridiculous, so there’s no pretense. It embraces the inherent corniness.
The movie begins with Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus (named for his Ohio hometown), a timid college student forced to brave the zombie apocalypse. Columbus is the shaky pseudo-hero who is forced to adapt quickly to the unpredictable new world.
On his way home, Columbus meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the originator of the “hometowns as first names” rule to prevent emotional attachment (since people are likely to become zombie-fied).
The two zombie-savvy survivalists encounter Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), two sisters whose methods involve more deception of the living than zombie killing (demonstrated as they swindle Columbus and Tallahassee again and again). Together (and sometimes apart), the group trucks on toward an ever-changing destination, the most important thing being that they keep moving.
The tumultuous battle of the sexes is complicated by the zombie presence, and strangely enough for a movie called Zombieland, it seems right that they appear in that order. Instead of taking the center stage, the zombies only seem to complement the film’s fantastic human comedy and quick one-liners.
Instead of falling prey to the dangers of overstuffed jokes and zombie-killing repetition, the film really moves. Zombieland features some gritty killings with unconventional weapons, blending humor and terror pretty well. Even the zombie-less moments provide pure comic gold (with one particular cameo standing out amidst the excellence).
The movie is easy to follow and the characters easy to relate to. Columbus is neurotic and socially awkward, but instead of being classified as a stereotype (Michael Cera’s multiple roles come to mind), Columbus has a quirky kind of humanity that makes him three-dimensional. As the movie progresses the audience learns more about each character, from the idiosyncratic (Tallahassee’s obsessive love of Twinkies) to the influential (the love of his puppy Buck).
The characters seem familiar – they could be that guy you used to know in the dorms, that girl who you’d sit next to in calculus but never actually talked to, your best friend’s little sister or that weird aggressive guy who hangs around downtown some nights. After watching Zombieland, you’ll start to wonder if they’d have the skills to survive the zombie apocalypse with you.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.