Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The world of Zombieland is desolate and filthy, yet still amazingly funny. It caters to Black Comedy Rule Number #1- fill the movie with grime and gore, but keep it distanced from reality to keep the viewers from getting too uncomfortable. It's like Cillian-less 28 Days Later without the rape, if Danny Boyle had been going for funny instead of disturbing.
The characters in this film have given up on names, it appears, as they are known chiefly as their hometowns. The hero, Columbus, is played by Jesse Eisenberg, a young actor best known as the non-masturbating older brother in Noah Bambach's The Squid and the Whale.
Columbus opens the film with a deadpan narration, saying that his country can no longer be considered America, because "something needs living people to be a country, and everyone here is dead." This is seemingly literal, as the only other people we come into contact with in the first ten minutes are raging, brutal corpses.
There is a set of rules, Columbus says, for one to stay alive in the area, to avoid becoming a "human happy meal.". The viewer is shown bloody clips of potential survivors who broke these. Fasten your seat belt. Don't be fat and out-of-shape. Pay attention to where you are, and where the undead are. Finally, don't get close to anyone.
Having lived in isolation before the virus, he is to some extent used to being alone. He also seems a prime candidate for obsessive-compulsive disorder, having carefully stayed away from his fears before there was really anything to be afraid of. His encounters with the apocalypse begin in a flashback, when he allows an attractive girl who has been attacked to take refuge, and she tries to eat him.
In the present day, he decides to head to his home town looking for any surviving family. On the way, he is surprised to find another survivor. This is Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a macho guy who's made it his goal to kill every zombie he can get his hands on.
His other goal drives him to raid Hostess trucks by the side of the road, desperate for a Twinkie, a scrap of normalcy in a life that's gone off the deep end. They join up, though Tallahassee's on a revenge kick and Columbus would just as soon keep as far away from the undead as possible.
The rest of Zombieland's short duration revolves around the duo's cross-country trek to find an apparently safe haven when Columbus's family plan falls by the wayside. They are accompanied by two sisters who, while they seem innocent at first, have a knack for getting the best of any situation (Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone, who wears eye make-up incredibly unblemished by zombie attacks.)
Woody Harrelson fits comfortably into his subtly sensitive character, while Jesse Eisenberg plays his role as the droll, paranoid Columbus completely straight. The character's seriousness almost brings gravity into the ridiculous plot.
The best thing about Zombieland is that the director, with all his fervor in making the most disgusting zombies imaginable, doesn't forget to add an interesting feel to its living protagonists. In fact, Tallahasee -- and particularly Columbus -- are cleverly conceived, though it seems the female characters are skimmed over somewhat.
Along with the wit, though, is the very common tough girl and sensitive guy tension, which wasn't original in 28 Days Later, let alone in this one. It seems that people are still feeding the feminist issue and find aggression in girls almost endearing.
I suppose that I wasn't expecting Zombieland to be so short, but all the same, I found the ending somewhat abrupt. It's the kind of conclusion that seems awkwardly unfinished, and leaves you saying "is that all there is?" to a black screen.
All the same, I left the theater amused and happy, and appreciated an enjoyable movie that just seemed a little too clipped. It may not be the first zombie-themed comedy of late, but it deserves its place next to Shaun of the Dead as an entertaining, witty comedy in horror's clothing (Rated R.)