Zombieland poster

Woody Harrelson bursts into the zombie genre with full tilt glower power and a hell for leather bad attitood in this screwy throwaway post mod zom-com from director Ruben Fleischer, who tries very hard to be fun and edgy but settles on a level of storytelling innovation not much more alive than your average zombie’s heart rate.
Zombieland is based in a not too distant future America where an undead uprising has left survivors few and far between – narrator and protagonist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) dubs it the United States of Zombieland and introduces to the audience via some amusing case studies his rules for survival, which in a nut shell boil down to: be smart, be quick and don’t be a hero. These rules are introduced as pragmatic survival instructions rather than inter-textual references ala the “rules of scary movies” in the Scream series, which seems a bit of a wasted opportunity.
A rousingly grisly opening credits scene pairing Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls with ultra slow-mo zombie splatter shots will rev zombie aficionados into a state of anticipatory glee but don’t get too excited – it is the best sequence in the film.
After wandering aimlessly around this desolate undead-afflicted landscape Columbus, who wistfully observes he was just as much of a loner pre-apocalypse, bumps into ultra gruff alpha male Tallahassee (Harrelson) and spends the rest of the movie wandering aimlessly with him as one half of a quintessential cinematic odd couple. Columbus is whiny, wimpy and self-analysing – the part appears to have been written specifically for Michael Cera. Tallahassee is ballsy and stoic; the kind of hard-ass genetically tailored to raise hell in a zombie apocalypse.
The screenplay’s true colours emerge when the two mismatched nomads cross paths with a couple of scheming girls, Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Columbus sees red – love, not blood – and launches a campaign to woo her while Tallahassee mauls the scenery in search of Earth’s last remaining Twinkies.
There is an amusing slab of non-action in which the characters hole up in Bill Murray’s mansion and chill out with the cuddly star, but it exemplifies the problems of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay: the plotline is invent-as-we-go episodic, with virtually no story underlining the random moments of undead action – all played strictly for laughs. The comedy is only so-so (the ‘zombie kill of the week’ will raise a giggle, though) and the lack of a coherent plotline connecting the discombobulated moments of splatter comedy evolves from a minor gripe in act one to a major enjoyment-stifling vice in act three. All in all a ho-hum Americanised attempt to recreate the creative/box office success of Edgar Wright’s brilliant Shaun of the Dead (2004).

Red lightWoody Harrelson bursts into the zombie genre sporting full tilt glower power and a helluva bad attitood in this screwy post mod zom-com from director Ruben Fleischer, who tries very hard to be fun and edgy but settles on a level of storytelling innovation not much more alive than your average zombie’s heart rate.

Zombieland is set in an America decimated by a virus that has turned almost everyone into flesh-craving zombies of the lightening quick, new age, Cathy Freeman on meth variety (as opposed to the slow and slobbery zombie of old). Narrator/protagonist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) dubs it the United States of Zombieland and introduces to the audience via some amusing case studies his rules for survival, which in a nut shell boil down to: be smart, be quick and don’t be a hero. These rules are introduced as pragmatic survival instructions rather than the altogether more interesting inter-textual approach, ala the Scream series’ “rules of scary movies” shtick.

A rousingly grisly opening credits scene juxtaposing Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls with ultra slow-mo zombie splatter shots will rev genre aficionados into a state of anticipatory glee but they shouldn’t get too excited – it is the best sequence in the movie.

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After wandering aimlessly around a desolate undead-afflicted landscape Columbus, who wistfully observes he was just as much of a loner pre-apocalypse, meets ultra gruff alpha male Tallahassee (Harrelson) and they spend the rest of the movie wandering aimlessly together. They are a quintessential cinematic odd couple: Columbus is whiny, wimpy and self-analysing (the part appears to have been written specifically for Michael Cera) and Tallahassee is ballsy and stoic, the kind of hard-ass genetically tailored to raise hell in a zombie apocalypse, which Columbus finds understandably convenient.

The screenplay’s true colours emerge when the two mismatched nomads cross paths with a couple of scheming girls, Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Columbus sees red – love, not blood – and launches a campaign to woo her while Tallahassee mauls the scenery in search of Earth’s last remaining Twinkies.

There is an amusing slab of non-action in which the characters hole up in Bill Murray’s mansion and chill out with the cuddly star, but it exemplifies the problems of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay: the plotline is invent-as-we-go episodic, with virtually no story underlining the random moments of zombie action, all played strictly for laughs. The comedy is only so-so and the lack of a coherent plotline connecting the discombobulated moments of splatter gags evolves from a minor gripe in act one to a major enjoyment-stifling vice in act three.

There are some random moments of low-brow fun and Harrelson, loaded with angry wild-eyed aplomb, is particularly entertaining. However, it’s hard not to view Fleischer’s zom-com as anything more than a ho-hum Americanised attempt to recreate the creative/box office success of Edgar Wright’s brilliant Shaun of the Dead (2004), which also opted to present a date movie in the context of comedic horror. Assessing Zombieland reminded me of the time a few years ago I and a large group of fellow mentally askew horror fans staggered through Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle. Particularly the chant that filled us with gusto:

Zombie union delegate: What do we want?
Zombies: Brrrraaaaiiinnnns!
Zombie union delegate: When do we want them?
Zombies: Brrrraaaaiiinnnns!

Indeed. This movie could have done with more of them.

Zombieland’s Australian theatrical release date: December 3, 2009