It has been running about a week, and I expect a few of us have seen it. Keeping the Rules in mind, let us wander into the world of zombie apocalypse comedy.

Zombieland

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Ruben Fleischer.
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast

Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Emma Stone as Wichita
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Amber Heard as 406
Bill Murray as celebrity guest

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Premise:

In the wake of a global zombie pandemic, a motley crew of survivors—gradually—bands together.

High Points:

This zombie-apocalypse version of the cozy catastrophe could have been an exploitative disaster. Even with the frequently witty script, Zombieland might have remained a minor hit, enjoyed by a niche audience. The film owes a good deal of its success to the overall direction and the stellar performances. Harrelson and Eisenberg bring depth to their goofy, mismatched buddy shtick. Stone and Breslin receive less screen time, but both put in strong performances. I predict that Abigail Breslin will rise above child star status and I hope that, when she does, she continues to do comedy. Even the throwaway reference to Hannah Montana gets a laugh.

Bill Murray has had his share of hits and misses, but he’s fared better than most other SNL alumni. His appearance in this film indicates why.

Low Points:

The conclusion to the Murray sequence does not really run true to the established characterization. The film’s likable personalities here run up against both its essentially nihilistic premise and its goofball tone.

I recognize that a zombie film will be gross and tasteless, but the opening sequences seem particularly so, to no really good end. The film is both funny and frightening as it stands; I wasn’t clear on what the introductory excessive excess adds.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6. Zombieland has an amusing script but, like all zombie films of the last forty years, it plays a variation of George A. Romero’s gravebreaking film. (Zombies have, however, increased their speed since ’68).

Effects: 6/6. This may be the most visually appealing zombie film ever made.

Story: 4/6. The film risks stretching too thin its videogame premise. I also wonder about the motivation of the sisters to continue alone to the park and behave in such a way that they knew would make them targets. They seemed to be serving the needs of the writer rather than their own, and the need for the film to run longer than an hour. However, Zombieland remains an entertaining romp, a near-perfect motion-picture equivalent of an amusement park dark ride.

Acting: 6/6. See High Points. Eisenberg is a gaming veteran who didn’t much get on with people before they became zombies. His natural cautiousness and virtual shooting experience allow him to survive. Harrelson plays a rowdy redneck who relishes re-killing the living dead in creative ways. His bravado, however, hides private pain.

Production: 6/6. The zombie subgenre has been marked by cheap films. Leave us face it; they’re the easiest and least expensive Hollywood monsters to create.

Zombieland is conspicuously expensive.

Emotional Response: 5/6. The film contains a few genuinely human moments but, for the most part, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the film’s crazed tone helps viewers overlook its nihilistic elements.

Overall: 5/6. The film lacks the social relevance and originality of Night of the Living Dead, and it’s nowhere near as satiric and clever as Shaun of the Dead. It may stand, however, as the best bloody horror comedy of 2009.

It’s October. Come take a walk through the haunted house.

In total, Zombieland receives 34/42.

Lingering Questions

1. The studio wants sequels. I feel they only just sustained this film’s running time. Do we want more?

2. If Eisenberg and Michael Cera made a film together, would it violate some fundamental principle of physics?

Bureau42 Halloween Countdown 2009

October 3 Double Feature: The Last Houses on the Left (1972, 2009).
October 10: Zombieland (2009).
October 17: Creep (2004).
October 24 Double Feature: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1959).
October 31: Into the Mouth of Madness (1994).