Latest zombie flick creates rift
October 9, 2009
“I pledge allegiance to the undead of the United States of Zombieland, and to the flesh for which they feast, one nation under infection, inescapable, with survivors and headshots for all!”
“Zombieland” is everything a guilty pleasure ought to be, and shouldn’t be underestimated as just another bump in the night. First-time director Ruben Fleischer proves a couple of things: that zombies, the veritable Energizer Bunnies of the corpse world, are damn funny, and that romance can still be found hiding among the burned-out cities and half-eaten bodies of a post-apocalyptic America. Good things to know, should you ever find yourself in the same situation as our unlikely cast of misfit heroes.
Manifestly, “Zombieland” is a road movie, albeit a bloody one, centering around Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), an introverted, sexuallyfrustrated, socially-awkward, perpetually afraid college student meandering crosscountry as he reflects on the family he never really connected with. I guess it’s too late now.
Enter Tallahassee (each survivor is called by the town they hail from, or are trying to get to) an eccentric, masochistic, Twinkie-loving hick hell bent on one thing: killing as many zombies as possible. Well that, and finding the last remaining box of Twinkies on the planet. It is particularly delightful to see Woody Harrelson’s deranged rendition of a man driven to the edge by the discovery of a Hostess truck filled with nothing but Sno Balls.
In short time, the unlikely duo runs across smolderingly hot Wichita (Emma Stone), and her little sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), perpetual miscreants and amateur scamartists. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the ragtag gang quickly learn that sticking together is their best bet for survival.
It would be far too easy to rest on the laurels of those who have gone before: infect, splatter, repeat, until rescue arrives or all the survivors reach game over. Fortunately, “Zombieland” delivers a much-needed double-tap to zombie cliche, infusing a real, often heartfelt subplot about finding family and that much-needed sense of belonging. Closer to “Shaun of the Dead” than “Dawn of the Dead,” audiences will find a characterdriven coming-of-age piece that just happens to be set against the zombie apocalypse, not the other way around.
But don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of goofs and gore alike. The film, narrated by Columbus as a visual guide on how to survive a zombie outbreak, isn’t going to let something as trivial as the end of the world get in the way of having a damn good time. Even though the zombies themselves are lifeless, their intended victims are not – and where the comedy succeeds here is in how four very different people find a way to fit together.
The dialogue is sharp and witty, the situations fresh and exciting, and the relationship building is just this side of relatable. Forget George A. Romero, this is the world overrun by the walking dead as seen through the polarized lenses of a Wes Anderson or Woody Allen. “Zombieland” isn’t perfect, it doesn’t have to be, nor does it pretend to be. It is content being one of the most exhilarating and fun experiences you will have at the theater for quite some time, and in its modesty, might just prove to be the best zombie
Ken Weigend is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2010.