Friday, January 6, 2012

My Review of Zombieland

Zombieland (2009)

You know how I said Shaun of the Dead is my favourite zombie movie of all time? Well, here's the film that falls into the second spot. Zombieland is an absolutely excellent movie, a movie that has often been compared to an American Shaun of the Dead. I don't think that's entirely true. While they do have some similarities, Zombieland is a very different movie. Shaun of the Dead is about a man trying to improve his relationships in the face of a zombie apocalypse, but Zombieland is about a loner who finds a family in a ragtag team of survivors. Zombieland offers up tons of good humour as well as excellent gore effects and some pretty good acting in an overall awesome package.

In the world of Zombieland (which is name-dropped a couple of times), zombies have outnumbered humans thanks to a mutated version of mad cow disease and the world has gone to absolute shit. Our main character and narrator, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has managed to survive all this time despite his extensive phobias by having a list of rules that pop up over the course of the movie.Some of the rules include the double tap, bewaring of bathrooms, checking the backseat for zombies, and the simple act of wearing a seatbelt. He also manages to survive because he has been a loner all his life and has no close family or friends. He is on his way to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents (who are paranoid shut-ins like himself) are alive. Which is a perfect time to explain why his name is the same as his hometown. There are no names in Zombieland, your name is either where you're from or where you're going. Which also explains to first-time viewers why the other three main characters are named Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock.

Columbus runs into Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), easily the most awesome character in the movie, and they agree to accompany eachother east. Tallahassee is armed to the teeth and he has two things on his mind: killing zombies and getting his hands on a Twinkie. While stopping at a grocery store to achieve goal #2, they are introduced to two mistrusting sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The sisters are on their way to Pacific Playland and after a series of scams, Columbus and Tallahassee join them.There's another reason why Columbus decides to go with them, but to say so would be to reveal spoilers, and I don't want to do that. The rest of the film is a road trip story, where the four get to know eachother on the way to Pacific Playland. Tallahassee and Little Rock bond over guns, Wichita and Columbus experience growing sexual tension, we learn the true motivation of Tallahassee's zombie-killing ways, and of course, some zombie ass is going to get kicked.

This is a departure from most zombie movies (even apocalyptic movies in general) because the zombies are not any sort of political or social metaphor, like in many other zombie movies. No, in this zombie movie, the zombies are just a means to show off awesome gore effects and something to have fun killing. It is also a movie about a loner finding his place in life and finding a family as he never had one of his own (just like Shaun of the Dead was about fixing a broken relationship in the face of danger). The film is not at all devoid of character development. Columbus learns that some rules are made to be broken, especially when the safety of people he cares about is on the line. Tallahassee learns to come to grips with what I can't tell you, and the two sisters learn to trust people besides eachother. They also grow as a sort of family.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie

Zombieland serves up loads of good humour alongside the zombie-killing scenes and some excellent dramatic moments. Some of the funniest parts of the film come from anecdotes, like how Wichita and Little Rock conned before Zombieland, how Columbus let his hot neighbour into his dorm room after being bitten by a homeless guy (AKA his first zombie encounter), and how Sister Cynthia Knickerbocker won Zombie Kill of the Week. There is also a cameo from Bill Murray once the group hits California and of course, being Bill Murray, hilarity ensues. It's also kind of funny to see the normally badass and tough Tallahassee go fanboy over Bill Murray. There are a whole bunch of other comedic gold nuggets in the film and it's sure to have you laughing throughout. There are a few memorable quotes in an awesomely tongue-in-cheek script, and the relationships between the characters also bring for some funny moments (especially the comparisons of Wichita and Columbus' 1997's, and the moments between Tallahassee and Little Rock).

For all the laughs, there is a heart behind all of the blood and guts. It's a movie about togetherness, about a young man who spent so long being alone that it took a zombie apocalypse for him to find a family. It's also a movie about survival, and the isolation that comes with survival. In order for this to work, the four lead actors have to have chemistry with eachother. Fortunately, the four lead actors have great chemistry (as well as great individual performances) and thus, the audience believes they can survive together as a family. The first performance of which to speak is Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus. It still surprises me that in all his future movies, he can be billed as "Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg". Granted, he was great in this and he was fantastic in The Social Network, but it seems shocking that a year after this was made, he came close to winning an Oscar, mostly because he seemed to be the next Michael Cera-esque typecast awkward guy. Good for him for getting out of that, at least for now. Here, he makes a sympathetic lead and a great narrator. This proves once again that Eisenberg is a fantastic actor, and I will like him more than I will ever like Michael Cera. He is one of Hollywood's great young talents and I hope he will continue to get great roles in the future, although his latest role in 30 Minutes or Less proved to be a return to his typecasting.

The other three actors rounding out the leads are Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. Harrelson is positively badass as Tallahassee, one of his most enjoyable performances by far. He nails the roles of the zombie-killing badass (with multiple chainsaws and a snakeskin jacket to boot), the jerk with a heart of gold, and the funny guy perfectly, making for an extremely memorable performance (probably the most memorable of the four leads, outside the Bill Murray cameo). Emma Stone is pretty good as Wichita. She conveys the mistrusting nature of her character perfectly, and she and Eisenberg have reasonable chemistry together. Her shining moment came during the flashback where she was conning a hapless gas station clerk. Lastly, Abigail Breslin proves once again why she is one of the best child actresses of our time, turning in a wonderful performance as Little Rock. Her interactions with Woody Harrelson are just hilarious.

All in all, Zombieland is an excellent movie and a modern classic, and it is definitely one of the best films of 2009. Zombieland features brilliant gore effects (although the squeamish will want to avoid this movie for just that reason), great acting, a great story with a very entertaining and tongue-in-cheek script, and some great zombie ass-kicking scenes. I highly recommend Zombieland to any and all fans of the genre (whether just zombies, horror-comedy, or horror in general) and besides the squeamish, Zombieland should do something for just about everyone. I bought this film today and I'm glad I did because this film definitely warrants multiple viewings. In short, see it. You won't be disappointed.

9/10- HIGHLY Recommended

1 comment:

  1. Terrific review. This is a great film, responsible for one of the best film cameos (and one of the saddest deaths).