In the horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a big wuss – but when you're afraid of being eaten by zombies, fear can keep you alive. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is an AK-toting, zombie-slaying' bad ass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. As they join forces with Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem, they will have to determine which is worse: relying on each other or succumbing to the zombies.
In Zombieland, the world has fallen victim to a deadly virus that turns everyday folk into slobbering, flesh eating monsters. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is first touched by the disaster when his impromptu date with a beautiful girl next-door type turns rancid; she gets an appetite and decides she wants to tear flesh from his geeky bones. Columbus brains her with a porcelain toilet lid and learns an important lesson; in this world you can’t trust anyone.
Columbus is the guide and narrator for this very funny splatter comedy. In a voice over that sounds like it's modelled on the calm, all knowing but helpful tone favoured by reality hosts, this nerdy guy offers a series of rules to best survive a world over-run by flesh eaters.
These include, 'the double-tap’ (dispatching a zombie with two shots instead of one), to the more prosaic 'always belt-up’, to the obscure 'stay away from unknown public bathrooms’.
Most zombie movies of the modern era are minimal in plot; they are 'about’ creating elaborate scenarios to rip, torture and splatter the undead. But Zombieland has the heart of a rom-com and the soft, moral centre of a situation comedy.
The narrative stitches together a whole bunch of movie body-parts. Its part buddy-movie, part will-the-geek-get-the girl, part survivors at the end of the universe flick and its all over-laid with a strain of ironic humour that’s deliciously ridiculous.
Heading home across the US, Columbus hitches a ride with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a master zombie killer. Dividing their time between splattering zombies and exchanging one-liners, they eventually stumble across a pair of sisters – Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) – con artists who steal everything and leave the boys for dead.
Eventually this quartet forms a 'family’ of sorts. But as fans of this genre know, trust is the issue – no one in a zombie movie can quite live with the possibility that one day you may have to kill the one you love, so it's best not to get too attached.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and director Ruben Fleischer have a lot of fun with this set-up. In a wash of Tarantino-like scene-stealing, Zombieland indulges in an orgy of filmic devices to keep the comedy zingers coming – on screen text, flashbacks that never happened, sub-plots that are purely an excuse for Hollywood in-jokes. There’s one priceless gag so good, that reviewers have been asked not to mention it, so I won’t.
Still, Zombieland, for all of its smart cool cleverness is hardly a re-think of the genre. For instance it reverts back to a very 70s girls-in-jeopardy climax; the girls may be spunky, dynamic and keen to kick butt, but in the end they are saved by the guys.
Zombieland stages a climax in an amusement park (a great gag) and suggests that faced with catastrophe its best to stick together. It’s a happy, upbeat zombie movie, then, with entrails.