Making a horror comedy is tricky business. Do it right and you get a classic like “Sean of the Dead,” a movie whose body count is offset by just the right amount of laughs. Do it wrong and you’ll wind up with “Repossessed,” a movie that is neither funny nor scary, just dull. “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer (whose next movie is to be called Psycho Funky Chimp) understands that horror comedies are neither fish nor fowl—they are both. For every decapitation you have to have a giggle and “Zombieland” delivers on both counts.
This post-apocalyptic zom com stars Jesse Eisenberg as a teenage curmudgeon who has survived a fast acting viral plague that turned his neighbors (and everybody else) into ferocious flesh eating zombies. Mad cow became mad person which became mad zombie disease! It should be a paradise for this videogame playing hermit—no facebook status updates!—but a life spent killing ravenous zombies has left him starving for human contact. When he meets zombie killer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and two dishonest sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), he realizes for better or worse, they must stick together to survive.
“Zombieland” has the same over-the-top silly vibe that makes movies like “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” such guilty pleasures. It’s gross-out funny with plenty of action and zombie kills for the hardcores, but underneath the absurdity is a message about humanity. At the end of the movie Eisenberg’s character realizes that his solitary life was turning him into the thing he feared most. “Without other people,” he says, “you might as well be a zombie.” The sentiment may not be as powerful as George A. Romero’s zombie metaphors but it puts a nice little bow on this coming of age story.
Also strong is the casting. Eisenberg, a young actor second only to Michael Cera in playing awkward teens on film, is an unlikely action movie hero, but here he plays to his strengths—playing the witty self-conscious teen—and expands his range to include zombie serial killer.
Equally fun is Woody Harrelson as the Twinkie loving zombie hunter Tallahassee. Harrelson brings a swagger and some unexpected twists to the character and delivers many of the film’s funniest lines.
Both are ably supported by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin who don’t have as have much to do as the boys, but do a great deal to keep the story moving forward.
The showiest role in the film, however, belongs to a Hollywood superstar who has one of the most surreal cameos in recent memory. I’m not going to tell you who it is (it’s funnier if you don’t know) but his wild scenes alone are worth the price of admission.
“Zombieland” breathes a bit of new life into the sometimes stale zombie genre.
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