By Gabriel Dickens
“Nut up or shut up” could've been Zombieland's signature quip, except one doesn't really need to “grow a pair” in order to sit through this horror comedy. Light on horror and heavy on action – along with deadpan remarks abound – Zombieland is nevertheless an enjoyable undead romp through spilled guts, torn flesh and decapitated bodies.
Lanky and phobic nice-guy Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived two months alone in the zombie-pocolypse with his shotgun and rules akin to something found in Max Brooks' “Zombie Survival Guide.” On the way to see his parents in Ohio (alive hopefully), he hitches a ride with a no-nonsense cowboy named Tallahassee (Woody Harrison) on his quest to find the last remaining Twinkie in civilization, and civilization itself, which supposedly resides in Florida. That is, until his armored Escalade is hijacked by two conniving sisters – 12-year-old Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and older sibling Wichita (Emma Stone).
During all the backstabbing, they happily mow down hordes of fleet-footed undead in any number of creative, macabre fashions, while never forgetting to finish 'em off. That would be rule number two: The Double Tap.
Speaking of which, one would think “Conserve Ammo” would be on that list of rules. After finding a stash of high-powered weapons inside a yellow hummer (rule number 34: Always Check the Back Seat), Tallahassee fires off round after round of automatic rifle fire into the air. “Thank God for rednecks” indeed.
But it wouldn't be much of a zombie film without nearly unlimited ammo now, would it? While perhaps not in the same league as “I Am Legend,” Zombieland still provides plenty of blood-spurting action and some white-knuckle suspense. In one scene, Tallahassee uses a combination of a banjo, baseball bat and hedge clipper to slaughter zombies at a supermarket, and he still had a miner's pick and shotgun at his disposal.“When Tallahassee goes hulk on a zombie, he sets the standard for not to be f---ed with,” affirms Columbus.
Unfortunately, the movie runs into a roadblock, and not of the zombie variety. Chalk it up to uninspired Hollywood-style romance instead. Never-been-kissed Columbus falls for Wichita, except that she prefers “bad boys.” Not to worry, for his redemption lies in facing his greatest fear – a clown, which also happens to be a zombie. The unremarkable characters and vapid writing amount to little, and only serve to scare those who plopped down hard cash expecting to see a roller-coaster ride of a film.
Nestled between these dead bits is a scene involving a comedy legend, which is a testament to the Shaun of the Dead-style black humor found throughout the film, albeit dialed down a few notches. Harrison's timing is spot-on, and even Eisenberg's character has a sarcastic side. The two play off each other splendidly. Perhaps things get a tad campy towards the end, but it does seem to pay somewhat of a homage to the classic “Army of Darkness.” And the audience really doesn't need the rules bludgeoned over their heads every time a zombie is “Double Tapped.”
Director Ruben Fleischer has created a thoroughly enjoyable zombie flick which sets itself apart in a market crowded with horror and suspense films in the weeks heading up to Halloween.