There are 32 rules, as of this writing, to ensure survival from a zombie infestation. That is of course if you want to believe what “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), a young awkward kid who just so happens to find himself surviving a zombie plague in the latest undead flick Zombieland, has to say.
Your best to probably listen to what he’s saying, though. After all, in this gorifyingly violent and darkly funny flick, he’s abided by these rules and they’ve kept him alive. Rules like keeping limber, avoiding bathrooms and staying in shape may seem silly but they very well may safe your life. So will teaming up with a bona fide zombie killer. Columbus does that too. His not-so-friendly shitkicker comes in the form of “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson). There’s not much to say about him other than he may have the world’s best shit-eating grin, he loves Twinkies and has an over-exuberance for killing zombies in nifty and imaginable ways.
Together, they head east from Texas — Tallahassee wants to go to Florida and Columbus to Ohio (hence their names). But before they get too far they get sidetracked by sisters “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin) who look to steal their truck and weapons so they can proceed to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in Los Angeles.
What makes Zombieland so entertaining and more than just a road trip into the bowels of Hell is the keen way first time movie director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick switch gears between genres. There is no shortage of violence. It is, well . . . very violent and bloody. Fleischer manages to keep it fresh with inventive camera angles and dispatching methods only once in a while crossing the line of “Jesus Christ, that was sick”. The zombies are, as always, disgusting messes (as are their victims). There is no shortage of comedy either. Pretty much everything Tallahassee says and does is funny even in the direst of moments. The idea that the final destination is an amusement park is ridiculous unto itself. The hidden comedic gem comes 3/4 of the way through and has just got to be seen to be enjoyed (I can’t do it justice and I certainly don’t want to ruin the moment).
What you might not expect though, and which caught me pleasantly off guard, is the characters are actually pretty well fleshed out. Eisenberg, along with Michael Cera, have cornered the “I’m a likable geek” role and we come to embrace Columbus and his social leperness, especially when we learn of the situation in Ohio. There are multiple layers to Tallahassee which make him tick and as Zombieland progresses we’re given glimpses in. Turns out there is a damn good reason he’s such a dickhead. Wichita wants to protect her sister at all costs even though she puts her and herself in some very bad and stupid situations while doing so.
So just like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland mixes in the perfect combination of splatterfest horror and comedy. It is a most welcome breath of fresh air to the otherwise unremarkable remake landscape currently engulfing horror (and everything else for that matter).