Blockbuster Zombies - "Zombieland" Review
The zombie genre has always been there, constant in our imaginarium. But until very recently, it was unthinkable to conceive zombies being so massive and popular. Today, zombies literally occupy TV primetime spots and periodically win millions at the box office.
Yes, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later was the first step of the genre's return, refreshing the formula with this masterfully directed drama in Super8 and DV. But without a doubt, it was Zombieland in 2009 that prompted the definitive revival of the genre.
A few days after its release, Zombieland became the biggest blockbuster zombie film of all time, surpassing Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead. Zombieland ended up accumulating more than 100 million dollars, a figure unthinkable at that time for the undead.
Quite honestly, without Zombieland, there wouldn't be The Walking Dead TV Show or World War Z (the highest grossing zombie movie of all time, with more than 540 million raised).
The main impact of Zombieland is easy to understand. The genre has always been associated with limited budgets and aesthetics that were rather amateurish or more fitting for B movies. Zombieland is a colorful visual candy full of wonderful special effects. Technically, it's a Hollywood blockbuster, with that striking cinematography of the successful feel-good American summer movies.
And yes, that intro in ultra slow-mo with Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is one of the best calling cards of any movie ever made.
Zombieland is supported narratively by a constant voice-over from the protagonist, a boy nicknamed Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) who has a list of rules to survive the zombie apocalypse such as being sure to double tap when killing a zombie, strengthen the cardio and not be a hero. Throughout the film, the rules are reinforced by clever and interactive inserts.
Columbus wants to travel from Texas to Ohio to see if his parents, with whom he doesn't really have a very close relationship, are alive. On the way, he meets Tallahassee, played by the great Woody Harrelson, who is by far the best character in the movie. Tallahassee has an obsession with Twinkies and is an absolute expert zombie killer machine.
Both decide to travel together for a while, making their way through zombies, with creative, kick-ass deaths, while Tallahassee searches for his beloved Twinkies. And yes, few product placements have been worth as much as this one.
In the trip, they also meet sisters Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone), who are amazing con artists who exploit the fact that they seem like vulnerable women. They thrive on gullible men. Columbus and Tallahassee are no exception, being cheated up to three times before a true friendship begins to be formed among the four.
One of the best scores of this movie, and by far a fundamental part of its success, is the wonderful Bill Murray cameo, playing a fictional version of himself, living alone in his home in Los Angeles disguised as a zombie from time to time to be able to leave the house and enjoy life (the golf course is empty).
The dry and absurd humor of all that refreshes the film in the second act, the one historically more complicated to achieve.
Zombieland, of course, has several plot holes. But whoever seeks narrative rigor in this comedy, where there is even a zombie clown, is probably watching the wrong movie.
Director Ruben Fleischer did a great job with this debut. All thanks to the freedom of improvisation of the comedy of those involved, the glamorous action shots and a vertiginous rock n' roll pace. And by 2018 accounts, Fleischer hasn't been able to top his debut yet.
What's Your Rating For Zombieland?
The film not only revels in the search for the most creative ways to kill zombies (with even a recurring "Zombie Kill of the week" gag throughout the film), but actively looks for striking locations to do so such as supermarkets, service stations, Hollywood Boulevard, Beverly Hills and, of course, the wonderful finale at the Pacific Playland amusement park.
Few last acts are so over-the-top, colorful and fun as Zombieland's. The entire amusement park becomes a battlefield between our four protagonists and a horde of zombies.
In the end, this is a light comedy about trusting and seeking refuge with friends in difficult moments framed in perhaps the first Hollywood blockbuster about zombies.
But beyond that, Zombieland will go down in history as the one that popularized and revitalized a formerly niche genre.
Release Year: 2009
Director(s): Ruben Fleischer
Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards