Every once in a while, Hollywood gets a boner for zombies. And why shouldn't they? Zombies rule. Everyone loves zombies, right? I know I do. But I also know that most zombie movies are total crap. 1980's rip-offs of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead were lame enough, but this decade unleashed the digital revolution on us, and we've had to suffer through absolute dreck like Days of Darkness, Deadlands: The Rising (not the video game!), and Automaton Transfusion. After saturating my brain with such hopelessly empty and inept films as those, I was concerned about the future of the zombie film. So, it was with great trepidation that I stumbled into a preview screening of Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland. Turns out, I was rewarded with one of the funniest Zom-Coms ever made.
Zombieland focuses on four survivors of the zombie apocalypse as they trek through the continental American wasteland, their destination: a Los Angeles amusement park that is rumored to be infection-free. We're first introduced to Jesse Eisenberg's character, a squirrely virgin nerd with irritable bowel syndrome who has managed to survive because of his skittish nature and play-it-safe rules. He's on his way to Columbus, Ohio to see if his family has survived.
Along the way, he runs into a balls-to-the wall badass (Woody Harrelson), who's willing to give him a ride, but doesn't want to get too personal. To keep each other at arm's length, the two men christen themselves after their desinations: Columbus and Tallahassee. Tallahassee has a penchant for NASCAR (as he paints the number 3 on the side of every car he commandeers) and an obsession for Twinkies, which invariably leads the two men to a lonely grocery store and a run-in with a few redneck zombies and two con-artist sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The two girls cleverly swindle Columbus and Tallahassee, taking their weapons and SUV, and marooning our two heroes in the middle of Nowhere, Texas (a crappy place to be, zombie apocalypse or not). Luckily for Columbus and Tallahassee, Texans love guns and SUVs, enabling them to hit the road again with bigger shotguns and a bright, shiny yellow Hummer. Long story short, they end up catching up to Wichita and Little Rock, and join the girls on their journey to California.
From the Metallica-laden opening credits depicting zombies attacking average Joes in super slow-motion (you know, the kind on that show on the History Channel when R. Lee Ermey blows up shit with large-caliber weapons?) to the zombie-drenched climax in carnie heaven, Zombieland is a ton of fun. It may not be as well-written or executed as Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, but pound-for-pound, Zombieland's sharp wit could beat Shaun's British sense of humor to a bloody pulp in a cage match if it had to. There are a few character inconsistencies towards the end, which include the standard zombie movie stupid character no-no (of the "it's dark in there... let's have a look!" kind) and the love story has a by-the numbers resolution that seems to play it just as safe as our main character does, but it's all done with such exuberance and enthusiasm that it's easy to gloss over the film's shortcomings. And that's not even taking into account the standout cameo role: a well-known comedian who dresses like a zombie to blend in with the dead, which is perhaps the funniest set-piece of the entire film. Oh, and did I mention that Emma Stone is hot? If you like your humor dark and bloody, then Zombieland is definitely for you, so nut up, shut up, and get your ass to the theater!