Ahh, zombies. In their endeavour to, well, to just pretty much eat everyone, the whole of America has fallen foul of the flesh-eating fiends. Apart from an unlikely hero from Columbus, Ohio. Zombieland falls under the umbrella sub-genre of the 'zom-com', perfected in 2004's Brit flick Shaun of the Dead, where comedy horror gets the undead treatment. Our hero, known only as 'Columbus' (Jesse Eisenberg...yeah, him again!), is a shy, introverted college student with a wealth of phobias, who spends his evenings eating pizza and playing World of Warcraft. When the zombie apocalpyse strikes, he decides to man up and make his way back home to Ohio, following his own rules for surviving.
Seemingly Eisenberg is a hot topic on this blog, with this being his third appearance - and second in a film that ends in 'land' (Adventureland is the other, FYI). Clearly the awkward teenager is a role he fits in comfortably, and he certainly gives current leader of the socially challenged character typecast, Michael Cera, a run for his money. Columbus is certainly an unlikely survivor, when his hottie next door neighbour (Amber Heard) joins the undead army and decides she wants a piece his survival seems more lucky than skilful - including hitting her with the top of a toilet cistern and apologising for jamming her foot in the door.
Thankfully, Columbus's rules serve him well, including the essentials, such as "Beware of Bathrooms" (Rule #3) and "Double Tap" (Rule #2). Wandering the highway with just a suitcase (Rule #7 - travel light!), he gets picked up by 'Tallahassee' (Woody Harrelson), a ruthless, tough-guy motherfucker...who'll do anything to get his hands on a Twinkie. Harrelson's appearance in the movie was apparently on the basis of four counditions - including the movie being environmentally conscious. After an awesome face-off with some fatties at the supermarket, Columbus and Tallahassee discover 'Wichita' (Emma Stone), whose younger sister 'Little Rock' (Abigail Breslin) has apparently been bitten by a zombie. After a seemingly heart-wrenching moment, the girls quickly turn the tables on the duo, revealing Little Rock's bite as fake, and run off with their truck and guns. They're girls with balls, something often missing within the horror genre. Columbus and Tallahassee stumble across the girls a little later on, and the four create an unlikely alliance, driving across the country.
The zombie style nods more to the blood-soaked crazies of the 'new zombie' film generation, as opposed to the slow, overbearing types in the old-school zombie flicks. There's plenty of blood and guts, with some damn awesome kills - particularly from Tallahassee, who takes great pleasure in the more inventive means of zombie disposal. The comic-book style of the 'rules' being shown on the screen gives a modern, videogame feel, and the opening credits look like they should be in 3D. The random interlude of 'Zombie Kill of the Week' is also a fantastic moment.
Despite the situation, the characters also manage to have some fun - taking out their anger on a new age store by destroying its contents. At times, being seemingly the only living humans on earth actually seems like a lot of fun. When the foursome seek refuge into a famous Hollywood star's house, they also find a fifth survivor - none other than Bill Murray, disguising himself as a zombie to avoid the attention of the real things. His appearance creates some of the most comedically genius moments in the movie, giving the group a temporary escape from the impending zombie doom, and the revelation that Tallahassee is Murray's biggest fan. There are also a fair few other pop-culture references, including a zombie Charlie Chaplin impersonator and references to Murray's appearance in the classic Ghostbusters.
Although not quite standing up to the innovative and original Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland definitely gives a hilarious take on the zombie revival of the 00's. Loads of 'zom', plenty of 'com' and a stand-up cast make it a great example of how comedy horror should be. Although a word of warning - those with a clown phobia may well find themselves hiding behind the sofa at around 1hr 14....