Zombieland is a 2009 zom-com comedy adventure film directed by Ruben Fleischer; written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick; and starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. With a runtime of 88 minutes, this 15 rated film at worst has plenty of violence and gore – but it’s done so in a comic manner which is no different from any other comedy horror film ,and therefor isn’t really offensive.
In a nutshell:
4 strangers travel across America amidst a zombie outbreak. One of the group is looking for his parents, two of them want to go to an amusement park, while the other just wants a twinkie. Comedy Horror and plenty of blood shed awaits on this fun undead road trip.
Gimme some more details:
Zombies have taken over America, and possibly the World. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is travelling across America to try and find his parents. He has managed to survive so far by living by a set of self-imposed rules, which include “avoid public restrooms”, “always check the backseat of cars”, and “maintain good cardio”. One day Columbus comes across Tallahassee, who is headed to Florida and is desperate for a Twinkie. Tallahassee hates Zombies as much as, if not more, than the next man. Together, Columbus and Tallahassee make a good team. On their journey they meet up with two sisters, Wichita and Little Rock, who are headed to an LA amusement park, they believe the park is zombie free and want to enjoy a bit of fun amidst all the depression that a zombie outbreak has brought to their lives. As the four team up, they have bloody adventures which even involve meeting Bill Murray, one of Tallahassee’s comedy heroes.
This is a fun film which can be enjoyed by hardcore zombie film fans (of which I count myself), as well as modern audiences (I’m too old to be classed as this). While loosely based in a horror scenario, it is a modern fast paced film which offers plenty of dark humour and over the top gore.
Writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick originally had the idea to make this as a TV series, they even had a 2005 spec script and pilot slot in 2005. After sitting on the concept for a few years they worked with director Ruben Fleischer to develop a script for a movie version. Traces of the TV series concept can still be seen though, the “Zombie Kill of the Week” for example, would have been a weekly feature on the TV show highlighting the best kill each episode.
The film is beautifully shot using Panavision Genesis digital, and then edited by Peter Amundson and Alan Baumgarten to give a good pace. It has some lovely cinematography by Michael Bonvillain (“Cloverfield”), particularly in the frantic action scenes. Special effects makeup designer Tony Gardner who assisted on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” came into to help with the look of the zombies. A comic book feel was gained by having several visual on-screen graphics added too, these emphasised the narration and the story to great effect. The music in this film is great, both the score which accompanies the film and the soundtrack which plays throughout the film too. This is thanks to David Sardy who also worked on “21”. Made with a budget of $23.6 million, Zombieland went on to gross over $100 million at the box-office. It became the highest grossing zombie film overtaking the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. It was not until “Resident Evil: Afterlife” ($290 million) and then “World War Z” ($540 million) that it was overtaken.
As Columbus, Jesse Eisenberg is the unassuming hero who acts as the vehicle for the film. The audience follow him around from start to finish and share in his tribulations. He gives a good performance and is an ideal candidate due to his stature and appearance. He looks geeky and feeble and that adds to the fear he can elicit and the comedy value it brings. Away from the physicality he delivers on, he demonstrates a real vulnerability and awkwardness. This is reinforced with the narration he delivers and in particularly the rules he lives by. It is Eisenberg’s serious deadpan expressions that help to bring comedy to the role.
It is reported that Woody Harrelson, playing Tallahassee, accepted the role on certain conditions, one being about the film having an environmentally conscious set, another challenging Ruben Fleischer to abstain from dairy products for a week (he managed 11 months), and two conditions relating to the cast and crew. In the film he delivers a fun performance, he is confident and determined, but also demonstrates vulnerability and compassion. It is a well-rounded and fun performance which shows like he had fun in the movie. Harrelson is also responsible for getting Bill Murray to feature. After various other famous names were considered, including Patrick Swayze, Mark Hamill, Kevin Bacon, and Joe Pesci to name but a few; Harrelson made a call to Murray and got him on board.
Emma Stone (Wichita) was originally up for a different role in the film but managed to bag one of the main characters. In the film she acts as guardian to her little sister with confidence and portrays herself as a strong independent woman, despite later becoming the love interest for Eisenberg’s Columbus. Stone does great in the role as big sister to Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock character who is trying to be grown up quickly in the middle of the zombie outbreak.
The names of the characters in the film are all place names. It is decided that to make things easy and safe, and to protect their real identities, real names would not be used. This even goes as far as other characters in the film, such as “406” played by Amber Heard. Named after the apartment she lived in.
WRAP IT UP:
More of a comic book themed than a horror film with a plot that is easy to follow, but one which is delivered superbly. The script is rich with fun and engaging dialogue which is delivered great by the cast. I have no doubt that this will be a cult classic for years to come because it takes an already massive subculture of film, zombies, and rehashes the concept in a different way. While some films detract from this film subculture, Zombieland does not just pay homage to it, but in some instances, it parodies that subculture too – but delivers it in an intelligent and witty way. The film has a heart and warmth to it, again this is something that the cast deliver really well. With lovely visuals and bucketful’s of blood this is a fun waste of time. A compliment for this film is that it is closest to get to the zom-com crown that is owned by Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” in recent years, although this film is more comic book than comedy. Rather than pigeon holing this film as a zombie comedy action adventure it actually transcends a few other genre’s too; it’s a romance, it’s a coming of age film, it’s a buddy movie – ultimately though, it’s fun.
I enjoyed this, it is light-hearted fun and very entertaining. It is a ‘leave your brain at the door’ film which is rich in visuals with a simple but effective plot.