Despite the odds being against me liking this film (I hadn't seen Jesse Eisenberg before, am not a big fan of Woody Harrelson, don't find many American comedies funny and don't like zombie movies because I'm a big wuss when it comes to horror) I really enjoyed it! Maybe this is because the director (Ruben Fleischer, making his big screen debut) was inspired by Shaun of the Dead – safe to say my favourite rom-zom-com of all time.
It’s more of a comedy with zombies rather than a horror film with jokes. It’s gory in places but you’re not taking the film seriously anyway, so there is never a sense of real fright. Even the most adverse to horror can sit back and enjoy the fun.
I thought the moments of narration and on-screen graphics of Columbus' rules were a great touch. From the opening scene showing why rule number 1 - Cardio, was so important during a zombie apocalypse (“the first to go, for obvious reasons...were the fatties”) I was hooked. I followed their crazy road trip, laughing out loud at the sheer silliness, but at the same time genius, of it all. The cameo mid-way through the film is one of the funniest I have seen. I won't spoil it by saying who it is but just know it's one not to be missed.
The main cast all do a good job, Woody Harrelson is the star of the show, going up in my estimations as the gun-toting Twinkie-seeking Tallahassee (“Where are you, you spongy, yellow, delicious bastards?”). Abigail Breslin as Little Rock is following on from a completely different (but also excellent) road trip in Little Miss Sunshine. Jesse Eisenberg may be one to watch out for in the future. Far from a typical movie hero, he plays our protagonist Columbus as a geeky, awkward loner. He is shown in a flashback spending most of his time on World of Warcraft and avoiding real people. The influx of zombies seemingly does him a favour, as he can use his skills of avoidance to prevent himself being eaten. During the course of the film, he becomes more confident, even heroic at the end.
The final act in ‘Pacific Playland’ reminded me of the carnival level on Left 4 Dead 2, with a huge mass of zombies, hoping to grab a quick bite, flocking to the pleasure park. It becomes evident that switching on the power here is the zombie equivalent of ringing a huge dinner gong. The juxtaposition of the bright colourful lights, shining from all the rides and attractions, set against the zombie horde shows that which has been destroyed as a result of this virus: joy, childhood and innocence. But the Zombieland guys have found a new way to enjoy themselves; for them the zombie-fest now equals exhilaration, fun and friendship.
Overall, the film is exciting and contemporary, with stylish direction and pop culture references ranging from Babe to Deliverance. It has many hilarious moments but also tries to get the audience to connect with the characters, to care about them at times when it shows their vulnerabilities. With the ending left open for a sequel, I'm hoping we will be able to see where this eclectic group of survivors heads next.