(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)
I saw Ruben Fleischer’s comic Zombieland expecting little and enjoyed immensely. True, there’s a big problem with the concept; it’s a zombie pic where the two key characters are a college-age maybe-couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone), yet they’re not instantly fried and eaten in the manner laid down in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Zombie films are traditionally a zone where characters are proper grown-ups, and there’s a danger that Zombieland‘s success – small for Hollywood, big for the zombie – may cause a wave of zomcoms that infantilise the Living Dead. (Kid zombies, of course, are fine, especially for cannon-fodder or eating naive parents).
However, Fleischer’s film is no Fright Night or Twilight, and it sets down its credentials in a gory opening gag reel showing what happens when you don’t follow the Rules For Surviving Zombies. The Zombie Apocalypse is under way, and geeky college shut-in Columbus (Eisenberg), makes his way across an America of flesh-eaters (the sprinting, ‘Noughties type). He meets a redneck, played with head-smashing, Twinkie-hunting, vim by Woody Harrelson. They encounter two sisters… and let’s end the summary there, as the meeting is so good it’d be a shame to spoil it and what follows.
Some reviewers suggested the zombies are incidental in a film that essentially separates comedy from horror, but this downplays Zombieland‘s satisfying bad-taste gags and joyously splatted heads. I won’t give away the sublime left-field, Heavens it’s him! twist, but it’s a natural extension of a moment in Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead, where the roofbound characters played, “Shoot the celebrity-lookalike zombie.” The film could have gone further and nastier, but it’s an honest crowdpleaser that’ll be fascinating to double-bill with Shaun of the Dead, another Romero spoof that took the master’s vision in a very different way. Zombieland turns into a bickering thrown-together road-trip, topped off by a climactic carnival of death, while Shaun sits tight in the pub. There’s an Anglo-American thesis in that.