Proving that the lowly zombie has still got some erratic lunges up its tattered sleeve, Zombieland is probably one of the most educational zombies movies to come out in ages. A tongue-in-open-sore teaching guide on how to survive a zombie pandemic, first-time director Ruben Fleischer seems determined to impart some wisdom along with the prerequisite flesh tearing and skull ventilation. It's true, that the chances of worldwide zombie infection happening in the next year or so is a tad far-fetched. (I don't see something like that taking place until at least 1994.) But the helpful tips sprinkled throughout the film are useful in that they can be applied to either a zombie tainted world or just your average, everyday non-zombie existence. For instance, the tips (or "rules"), "beware of bathrooms," "travel light" and "seatbelts" should be employed whether or not there are zombies lurching, or, this film's case, staggering quickly outside your window. The first one especially, as I have witnessed a lot of weird mishegas going on in public bathrooms over the years: Cocaine usage, heterosexual intercourse, drunken knife fights, projectile vomiting, homosexual fellatio, sober knife fights and plenty of tampon irregularities.
Since a proper zombie flick cannot subside on sound advice alone, the producers of this organ ripping undertaking have added plenty of sly humour and a touch of sentiment to its grisly repertoire. Boasting a cast of characters that tops the scales at an agile four people, the film focuses mainly on a slightly nerdy collage age kid named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) – well, that's not really his name, that's the name another character gives him because he's from there. Anyway, a loner before the zombie plague was unleashed, Columbus finds himself thriving in this apocalyptic netherworld (a.k.a "Zombieland"). Utilizing a list of rules, the improbable survivor has become quite the zombie avoider/killer. The peculiar sight of Mr. Eisenberg wielding a shotgun, and wielding it effectively (Rule #2 - Double tap), was one of the film's many perverse thrills.
Topping Columbus' gusto, however, when it comes to dispatching zombies, is the no-nonsense Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a snake-skin jacket wearing, nut upping enthusiast with a serious hankering for a Twinkie. Unlike Columbus, who kills zombies out of necessity, Woody's character approaches bumping off brain-dead crazies with a fanatical glee (Rule #32 - Enjoy the little things). The two reluctantly team up and starting heading eastbound–the film takes place entirely in the United States of America (consult your atlas). Messing up their easterly plans are a pair of sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), two con artists who are–you guessed it–heading west.
After hashing out some trust issues, the foursome settle down for a spell at the luxurious home of a big time Hollywood celebrity. I must say, Woody's enthusiasm for the celeb combined with the overall appearance of the said celeb (who looked like an undead Martha Stewart in an Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer wig) made for some of the film's most hilarious moments. ("I saw Eddie Van Halen at the Hollywood Bowl... he's a zombie.")
The unlikely pairing of the fidgety Jesse Eisenberg with the laid-back Woody Harrelson had me repeatedly thinking to myself: How did these two end up killing zombies together? It had to be an accident. I mean, there's no way they were cast on purpose. Well, what ever it was that brought them together, I'm sure glad they were, as their awkward back and forth is the nitty-gritty of this film's bizarre appeal.
Keeping with the trend of most zombie movies of recent years, Zombieland starts off with an euphoric bang. Serenading us with a steady dose of zombie-related chase scenarios, the eerily beautiful opening titles were like a deranged ballet, as stripper zombies (their titty tassels tripping the light fandango), immolated zombies, and little girl zombies pursue their out-of-shape (Rule #1 - Cardio) prey in regular and slow motion. The shot of mini-van woman's face sliding violently across the pavement, and the resulting blood trail, was topnotch in terms of realistic face-to-pavement physics (Rule #4 - Seatbelts).
Sheathed in black skintight trousers and sporting globs of unpredictable eye makeup, Emma Stone is a sneering and snarky delight as the untrustworthy Wichita, a flimflam artist who makes ample use of her supple frame during and before the zombie outbreak. Spending a good part of the film toying with the timid Columbus and undermining the headstrong Tallahassee – in other words, she's the girl-based antagonist – Emma finally gets to let her shotgun do the talking during a spirited sequence that takes place at an amusement park. Running and gunning like her life depended on it, Emma looked like a maniacal cherub as she blew away wave after wave of hungry corpses.
The fake rationality on why zombies are so popular has a lot to do with their inherent humanity. With the exception of ring-tailed lemur zombies and Horace Greeley zombies, the zombie is an unvarnished reflection of ourselves at our most primal and unkempt. On the other hand, the real reason zombies are as popular as they are is simply because they're called "zombies." To be more specific, the fact that word "zombie" starts with a 'z' is the sole reason why people love zombies so much. How else can you explain the popularity of zoos, actress Grace Zabriskie and Zima? You can't. Take for example the word "Xylophone." It may sound like a 'z' word, but it's an 'x' word. And just like the Clan of Xymox and Seattle SuperSonics forward Xavier McDaniel, it doesn't receive the benefits of being a genuine 'z' word. Just for record, I have no idea what I'm talking about.
If you're fan of films like, Night of the Comet and Return of the Living Dead, or liked 28 Days Later... but thought it could have been funnier, check out Zombieland; you'll see plenty of zombies re-slaughtered and you might just learn something.