Sunday, October 4, 2009

SAT Time! Night of the Living Dead:Shaun of the Dead::28 Days Later:___________

There are quite a few rules to survival in Zombieland or so we're told by Jesse Eisenberg's Columbus a neurotic survivor of the zombie apocalypse. Rule number one: cardio, rule number 3: seatbelts and so on, it's clear that Columbus has thought a lot about how to survive in a world dominated by the walking dead. And, I imagine most of the audience for Zombieland will have as well considering how popular and prominent zombie horror movies have become in the forty-one years since George Romero created the modern take on the monster with Night of the Living Dead.

Romero's zombie is a slow, shambling reanimated corpse, the Romero style zombie was lampooned in 2004's zombie romantic comedy Shaun of the Dead. Romero has publicly stated that he doesn't like the idea of quick running zombies, but with the box office hit 28 Days Later audiences proved that they don't agree. And so we have Zombieland a horror movie that openly lampoons it's own subject matter. But the big question is, does it succeed?

Zombieland follows several survivors after the world is decimated by an outbreak of zombie. Columbus(Jesse Eisenberg) is on his way to his parents house in Columbus, Ohio when he meets Tallahassee(Woody Harrelson). Tallahassee insists that the two don't use real names so that they don't get too attached to one another. Along the way the duo meet with Wichita(Emma Stone) and Little Rock(Abigail Breslin), sisters on their way to Los Angeles to visit an amusement park they once went to before the world went to hell.

The cast is small, but the performances are not. Harrelson in particular wows as the gruff Tallahassee who takes glee in killing every zombie he sees and yearns for a twinkie. Tallahassee at first seems like a one note joke, and honestly he's the funniest character in the picture, but his character has the strongest emotional arc of the film. It's this arc that elevates Zombieland from being a somewhat forgettable comedy to something stronger. Harrelson may be the crown jewel of this picture, but the other cast members don't slack. It's kinda weird to see Abigail Breslin in a zombie movie since the predominate vision in my head of her is as the little girl in Signs, she does a fine job here and when she and Harrelson share the screen it's a joy to see.

If there is a defining fault to Zombieland it would be it's lack of zombies! For a movie that insists that the world is dead and filled with the walking dead, I could literally count on two hands the number of zombies the group encounter between Texas and Los Angeles. I'm not sure if the director was saving money for the big finale or what, but it's a glaring oversight. When the group casually drives into the center of Los Angeles without seeing a single zombie--it's a problem. With a population between the city and the surrounding areas in excess of 17 million I expect to see more than six zombies in downtown L.A. When there ARE zombies in the movie it does work as a horror movie, with quite a few scares, some of them are generic jump scares, but overall the movie doesn't slight on the horror aspect.

One of the greatest aspects of this film is the narration coupled with the "survival rules." Columbus narrates the film and his survival rules accompany the narration on the screen as the happen. It's a beautiful twist that looks wonderful and results in quite a few laughs. It's like we're viewing a movie version of Max Brooks "Zombie Survival Handbook." These parts coupled with the tremendous opening title sequence make this film a visual joy to watch

Whether or not you enjoy Zombieland largely depends on how you like your comedy. Zombieland is an American comedy through and through. There is less subtlety to the humor and it plays less like an homage to it's source material than Shaun did. That's not a slight against the film, but if you liked Shaun and are expecting more of the same you'll be disappointed. The funniest portion of the movie comes during the last third of the film when the group looks for suitable lodging in L.A. I'm loathe to reveal much about it, but it's the highlight of the film and you'll recognize it when you see it.

Maybe I'm not the most partial person to review a zombie movie, I've grown up watching the Living Dead films, one of my favorite video games is Left 4 Dead, hell, my parent's first date was to see Dawn of the Dead, I can basically credit my existence to the the genre. I tell you this as full disclosure, I'm a big zombie whore. I'll pretty much watch anything with zombies in them. But I don't enjoy everything with zombies in it, the Resident Evil films have zombies in them and they are still steaming piles of shit. So, trust me when I say that Zombieland is a great film certainly worth a look during this spooky month.

Its funny, it's scary and really what else is there to look forward to in the genre this month? Saw 6? Now, THAT is funny!

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