Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Premise: A survivalist (Woody Harrelson) and a mousy young man (Jesse Eisenberg) join a pair of sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) as they travel across America after a plague has turned everyone into man-eating zombies.
What Works: Zombieland is a full-blown horror comedy, sharing the flavor of Shaun of the Dead, Ghostbusters, and Tremors. The film falls decisively on the comedic side, preferring laughs to scares, and Zombieland is very much like a gory version of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The laughs work in part because of the film’s irreverent and playful tone; unlike some other attempts at merging horror and comedy, Zombieland is successful because it is conscious of the ridiculousness of its premise and plays upon the absurdities of the story world. The technical qualities of this film are very impressive, and the cinematography is especially good, finding unusual angles and composing shots that play up the cartoon-like nature of the film. The acting in Zombieland is terrific and all of the roles are extremely well cast. Woody Harrelson plays a grizzled zombie killer and he delivers a lot of the humor in the film opposite of Jesse Eisenberg, who has a difficult role as the straight man. Eisenberg also does a great job, managing to hold his own against Harrelson, while also narrating the film, and the actor manages to give Zombieland a lot of heart and greatly enhances the intelligence of the film. As an entry in the zombie genre, Zombieland deals directly with one of the main themes of the subgenre: finding or trying to recover some stability after the apocalypse. Zombieland finds some new answers to that notion that, however shallow, manage to end the film on a more hopeful note than most other zombie films.
What Doesn’t: Compared to Harrelson and Eisenberg’s roles, the character work on the female characters is pretty shallow and they are not given as interesting material to work with. Hardcore zombie fans might be disappointed by the lighthearted tone of this film as compared to the seriousness or social commentary of a George A. Romero film, which Zombieland has no interest in engaging. Zombieland is primarily a comedy and there are not very many scares to be found.
Bottom Line: Zombieland is a very good horror-comedy and one of the best zombie films of recent memory. Although it might not penetrate as deeply into the culture as other zombie films, it is extremely entertaining.
Episode: #259 (October 11, 2009)