- RatedM18 /GenreComedy, Horror
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Vampires may be all the rage in theatres now but zombies have always been a cinematic mainstay, ever since George A. Romero -- the godfather of zombie flicks -- unleashed them on the big screen with the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead.
Since then, zombie comedies have gradually come to ‘infect’ the market. Typically slow-moving, brain-eating walking corpses without much brains themselves are obvious targets for dark comedy. Recent films such as 2004’s Shaun of the Dead (still the genre’s high-water mark) and Fido, from two years later,are the memorable efforts.
The newest entry among these undead funnies, Zombieland, does a fairly decent job as well.
In it, the world has been taken over by zombies (doesn’t matter how or why, really) and, to stay alive, adolescent survivor Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has formulated thirty-plus rules to help him evade the deadly monsters.
Forced to leave his dorm after a not-so-amorous run-in with a neighbour, he runs into Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a tough guy experienced in hunting zombies.
Things get awfully interesting as Columbus and Tallahassee become an odd couple, for the latter delights in finding new ways to kill zombies, and his sole purpose in life seems to be trying to find the last Twinkies -- little cream-filled sponge cake snacks -- left in the world.
The dudes subsequently stumble onto uninfected sisters/grifters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Together, the new allies go on a road trip in search of a fabled land in California said to be free of zombies, which sounds almost too good to be true.
Inevitably, amid narrow escapes and zombie killings, romance rather predictably kindles between the socially awkward Columbus and the confident Wichita.
Rising star Eisenberg, who has appeared in independent American features such as The Squid and the Whale, is marvellous as the gawky Columbus, even though his curious mannerisms and soft-spoken nature may invite unflattering comparisons with Juno actor Michael Cera.
Harrelson, recently seen in the ‘disaster-porn’ flick 2012 as a loony DJ, chews up the screen as a redneck who is as emotionally empty as the zombies he tracks down. Meanwhile, Stone and Breslin are functional in their roles, with the latter (forever Little Miss Sunshine for some fans) displaying some promising acting chops despite just recently leaving primary school age.
During the film, there’s one delicious cameo during the group’s journey to the promised land, although the mystery actor does overstay his welcome, and the segment drags the movie down slightly.
To his credit, neophyte director Ruben Fleischer has managed to put together a fun film that’s more than just a zombie movie -- it’s more a road-trip adventure with light scares, adventure, humour and a dash of that love stuff. After the requisite scenes of the living dead taking over the world, the film settles into more of a character-driven piece, albeit one that’s a tad fluffy.
Zombieland is hardly the most revolutionary film featuring the living dead, but it knows where its strengths lie and plays to those strengths.
Though belonging to a genre where monsters partake in senseless violence and the consumption of human body parts, this is one movie with both intelligence and humour -- assets that have brought on box-office success stateside and resulted in plans for a 3D sequel.
Zombies, it seems, will never go out of style, and more zombie movies with brains, so to speak, are certainly welcomed.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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