Friday, December 30, 2011

Zombieland (2009) Lively, Drooling, Angry-Eyed Fun

Why have I taken this long to review one of my favorite horror-comedies?  Why ask why?

2009's stellar Zombieland, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and directed by Ruben Fleischer, is a slam-bang, energetic romp (always wanted to use that word in a review) through a world devastated by zombies of the "caught a nasty virus and really got messed up with a taste for human flesh" variety.  There's been a long-standing debate as to whether or not this is truly a horror film.  Many maintain it's a comedy instead of horror.  I tend to believe that it is indeed a comedy with horror elements; therefore, I'm comfortable with the genre label of "horror-comedy."

The world has ended and all neurotic Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to do is head home to his family.  A nervous but careful young man, Columbus (not his real name, but where he's from) has survived the zombie apocalypse through his meticulous rules, which include shooting a zombie twice to ensure it's dead (Rule #2), not being a hero (Rule #17), and the all-important keeping up of the cardio (Rule #1). 

Yeah, Rule #3 is pretty important, I'd say.

On his way out of town, he meets tough-guy Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), an expert in zombie-killing who is searching for the last stash of Twinkies, as they represent a simpler, happier time in his life.  The two complete opposites soon run afoul of two grifting sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who steal their guns and their ride.  Soon the tables are turned, and despite their differences, the four team up at least to get where they're going:  Pacific Playland, which is supposed to be devoid of zombies.

They stop for an overnight in Los Angeles and stay at Bill Murray's mansion, which leads to some hilarity, in-jokes, and one big misunderstanding.  Tallahassee lets his guard down and we discover just why he hates zombies so much, a truly heartbreaking reveal.  Columbus and Wichita grow a little closer, leading the nervous young man to think he's finally found the family he always wanted with these strangers.  But Wichita and Little Rock bug out, trying to convince themselves they don't need anyone else, and head for Pacific Playland.  Columbus refuses to let them go and gets Tallahassee to join him in tracking the girls down.

At the amusement park, the sisters' night of fun is rudely interrupted by hordes of zombies attracted by the bright lights and now, fresh meat.  They find refuge on the drop tower ride but their time is running short.  Columbus and Tallahassee ride to the rescue, with Columbus overcoming his paralyzing fear of clowns - yes, that means clown zombie - and Tallahassee making a last stand inside a concession booth.  Somehow, through sheer bravery and quite a bit of luck, the four manage to survive.  And yes, Columbus finds the family he so longed for.

Zombieland is just pure fun from beginning to end.  It pops on the screen with four likable characters fueled by excellent performances by Eisenberg, Harrelson, Stone, and Breslin.  So many memorable lines, so many memorable scenes, as well as the funniest cameo put on film in ages.  It's not a long movie, clocking in at around 88 minutes, but it moves along very quickly, never pausing too long on overly serious scenes yet still bringing about depth in each character.  If you're squeamish, the opening scene will be enough to let you know you may be averting your eyes a few times during the movie, but really, it's entirely worth watching.  If the planned sequel is anywhere near as much fun, I'll be happy.

So Zombieland is definitely a comedy with roots in horror, and it not only walks the fine line between the two genres, it puts on a lampshade and boogies down on each side of the line.  So much fun, and definitely belongs in my high pantheon of horror-comedies along with Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and Evil Dead II:  Dead by Dawn.

Now "nut up or shut up" and see it!