The first 1/3 of this movie had me thinking “I’m buying this on DVD!”
The middle 1/3 had me thinking “Come on, move things along.”
The closing 1/3 had me thinking “Well that was OK.”
Hardly a mind blowing recommendation I admit, but despite all that Zombieland is a movie with a great start that ultimately runs out of gas thanks to a plodding middle section.
Which is disappointing as it realistically had the potential to be so much more than just another zombie movie, amid a sea of recent other werewolf, vampire and zombie movies.
Disclosure: Zombie fans be warned, Zombieland includes running zombies! If this lack of true to label zombie purity scares or frightens you perhaps you should avoid this one. Although the fact is that as zombies are fictional creations they can do whatever the fuck a writer or director tells them to do, and perhaps you should do something they can’t and get a life.
So in a truly inspired piece of scripting the continental US gets overrun by zombies, created by some sort of mutation from mad cow disease, no doubt spread through slutty young Hollywood starlets banging rock stars and athletes who then passed it on to every groupie in the nation.
That’d be the quickest way to do it I reckon, so any new virus that comes out from now on should be given a girl’s name, a la Tornados.
So I will name the Zombieland plague and hereby dub thee the Hilton Virus.
Examples of the Hilton Virus are shown through the opening credits, mostly in slo-mo just like the recent Watchmen film, and provide three or four of the most memorable minutes of a credit sequence that I can remember. There is just something about slo-mo zombies in full flight tracking down a helpless victim, it’s also why we watch with morbid fascination as the Lion catches the Gazelle, we don’t want to see the kill itself, but we feel compelled to watch nonetheless.
Circle of Life.
The survivors of the initial onslaught are few and far between, and during the course of the movie they are referred to by their destination, therefore early on we meet Columbus, who acts as both star and narrator through the film.
Columbus continues on as a survivor by adhering to a series of hard and fast rules that he does not allow himself to stray from. An example is the “Double Tap” rule. Once a zombie has been shot there is always the chance that they are merely slowed down, and might still rise up again to pose a threat, a second bullet in the head does the trick and makes sure that this uncertainty doesn’t come back to bite you, (literally).
A pretty nifty idea is that the rules appear onscreen as described, and later on as they are repeatedly utilized, acting as an ongoing reminder that they generally work.
Columbus is cautious, methodical and chatty in a nervous and fidgety way, something that the next guy he runs into, Tallahassee, is not. Tallahassee is many things, including hard to spell. He is a redneck with a cowboy hat, he paints the #3 on the door of whatever vehicle he has commandeered (in a reference that I can only assume is to Dale Earnhart, a Nascar guy along the lines of Peter Brock in Australia), shoots first and doesn’t ask questions later. He is reckless, vicious and hair triggered, and suspicious and untrusting of strangers.
He also likes a sugary-bun sort of snack called Twinkies, so once Tallahassee decides to allow Columbus to tag along for a while, they go on an impromptu Twinkie hunt.
I feel I need to point out right now that this runs a ratio of around 70/30 comedy to gore and violence, meaning that it is far more a comedy than a straight action or traditional “Zombie” film like Dawn of the Dead etc. The gore is often used for comic effect or simply to illustrate a point. As a comparative reference the other more notable zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead ran an 90/10 split, far more heavily comedy weighted, so when the gore did come it was a little more unexpected and therefore more impactful.
Back to the Twinkie Hunt, Columbus and Tallahassee end up at a supermarket, which in itself involves a short sharp zombie hunt, after which they encounter two young girls, say 18 and 13 named Wichita and Little Rock. One appears to be infected, and after a humerous exchange it comes to light that our heroes have just been conned out of their arms and vehicle.
So unarmed and vulnerable, they head off on foot, only to find the holy grail of zombie repelling metal, a bright yellow Hummer which in a happy coincidence, is also packed full of weapons and ammo. They happily zip off and run into the girls again, only to be re-conned, but this time they decide to team up for a while as they are off in the same direction, the girls aiming to go to a Disney style park called Pacific Playground in California, rumoured to be the only zombie-free pocket on the East Coast.
So the remainder of the movie involves just that as they go on their journey.
It is worth noting that in a movie in which there are really only four main characters (and one cameo that Woody obviously teed up thanks to the underrated 90’s movie called Kingpin), they somehow managed to cast them with likeable, yet credible actors, none of which have the presence to carry a film, but as a group they do a creditable job.
– Jesse Eisenberg / The guy from Adventureland (He likes “Land” films I guess.) who is deliberately low key and self deprecating, and a good counterpoint to:
– Woody Harrelson / Despite being a pot smoking hippie who was never blessed with matinee looks Woody is still a funny guy and he adds value here.
– Emma Stone / Best known as the chick Jonah Hill was after in Superbad, Stone is spunky, witty and confident in a non-annoying way.
– Abigail Breslin / Is also in the movie.
As mentioned earlier once the two pairs come across each other again and team up the movie loses its way for about 25 minutes, probably not coincidentally is that this happens to be the period between zombie encounters.
In an 80 minute movie 25 minutes of lifeless (if you’ll excuse the pun) inactivity between the “life-less activity” is inexcusable.
(I swear that made sense as I wrote it.)
This is not one of the best films I have seen recently, (though overall it is still solid), but at times it was one of the more enjoyable.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. I know a “7” hardly screams “Watch THIS!” but I was let down after the great start to the film was allowed to go to waste, if you liked Shaun of the Dead you won’t hate this.