Notes on ‘Zombieland’

October 20th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

(review original posted on

George Romero may have invented the modern zombie film, but he never established the rules we need to survive in a land of the dead, a land of zombies if you will, or perhaps… yes, a Zombieland.  Luckily for us (and for Columbus, our reluctant hero with irritable bowel syndrome) Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have written “Zombieland,” providing us the appropriate rules for survival.

Columbus, played by the gauche yet charming Jesse Eisenberg, has established a list of rules to live by in order to survive now that the United States is completely inhabited by zombies and these rules have lead him to be one of the last remaining humans.  He’s a loner; it helps him keep to his rules. We follow Columbus as he bumbles his way across the country to find if any members of his family back in Columbus are still alive.  His brief encounters with the zombies are hilarious as he outruns them around an abandoned gas station and takes them all down with rule number 4: the double tap.

Once Columbus joins up with the zombie and Twinkie hunting Tallahassee (played by the versatile and hilarious Woody Harrelson) things start to get bloody.  Tallahassee has a different way of looking at the zombies, as though they have never been human.  So he takes extreme pleasure in taking them down with any weapon he can get his hands on. After getting a crazy Twinkie craving, Tallahassee pulls Columbus along on his search for the cream filled dessert. It’s a rule Tallahassee lives by and becomes a rule that Columbus adds to his list – “Enjoy the little things.”

Their search through a zombie filled grocery store leads them to find Little Rock (the beautiful Emma Stone from “Superbad”) and Wichita (played by oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin).  They are two con-artist sisters who have kept to themselves even before the “zombie epidemic.”  We’ve now possibly the last four people alive, loners each in their own right, trying to survive without the complication of emotional involvement (because you never know when you’ll need to shoot your friend in the face after being bit by one of these flesh eaters). They are trying to make it to the rumored amusement park still untouched by the undead.

The roles in this film feel handcrafted for the actors cast.  Woody Harrelson has never been better than as this southerner with a bloodlust; Eisenberg seems to have perfected the “geek chic” that he first pulled off so well in Roger Dodger. His ironic and deadpan narration is the perfect accessory to this film, and I can’t imagine another actor in the role. Spoiler: The greatest alum to ever come out of SNL makes a cameo that re-enforces the overall tone of the film.

But the biggest credit, aside form the witty script, aside from the great performance from the leads and supporting cast, goes to director Ruben Fleischer on his feature debut. He managed to not get caught up in what must have been a very technical and chaotic shoot and kept the focus on a good, intelligent story about character connections and development.  It is so easy for a director to forego all intelligence when making a film like this (like Michael Bay who I don’t think gives a second thought to story and character when making a movie).  Fleischer has proved that you can have a fun, crazy, action-packed film that does not neglect the essentials of story telling.

Some film goers may be reluctant to go to a comedy-horror like Zombieland, I know one dear friend who hated Shaun of the Dead and I still remain her friend, but this film is one of those “little things” in life that we should enjoy. Go see it with a group of friends, or if you really want to enjoy it, sneak in a few beers, sit next to Jered and listen to his booming laugh fill the theaters.

But seriously. We are living in a time when we are disconnected from other people because we interact more through twitter, facebook, blackberries, iPhones, etc (please don’t stop visiting this website) instead of being face to face. It’s not far off that we are living in a land of zombies that have been almost comatose by technology. The rules in this film are rules for life:  Cardio. Wear Your Seatbelt.  Beware of Bathrooms. The Buddy System.  Be A Hero. And above all else, enjoy the little things.

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