I am sure glad that the great zombie renaissance of the past decade didn't quite peter out before Ruben Fleischer's feature debut Zombieland had a chance to be made. To my mind, this movie is literally the culmination of the past seven years of undead-mania. That's not to say that it's the very best of the bunch--that honor still belongs to Shaun of the Dead. What I mean is, at no other point could a movie like this have been made--a totally mainstream, zombie action/comedy with big-time Hollywood stars. And the number-one movie in America, no less.
The moviegoing public has been thoroughly conditioned to accept zombies, and the result is this incredibly fun and clever flick. Right from the inspired title sequence, set to the strains of Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls", I knew I was in for one hell of a ride.
Now the whole slow zombie/fast zombie thing has been debated to death for years now, but let me just say this: I'm old-school, and I will be a slow-zombie guy until the day I become one. To me, they will always be more terrifying. That said, this movie isn't about being terrifying. This is an action comedy with zombies, and as such, works much better with fast zombies. Slow zombies would've completely thrown off the pacing, so in this case, I give it a pass.
As I said, this is one very fun flick--and the main reason for that is the man who is the selling point for the entire thing, Woody Harrelson in the role of Tallahassee. Who would've thought that Sam's dim-witted assistant on Cheers would eventually become the most bad-ass zombie killer in cinematic history? And yes, in the opinion of this horror blogger, he is exactly that.
Teamed up with Harrelson is Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus, whom I could not shake the suspicion was put in because they couldn't get Michael Cera. Eisenberg definitely gives off a Cera vibe, but regardless of that, the chemistry between him and Woody is terrific, and winds up anchoring the entire movie.
There are so many clever touches here. Columbus' zombie survival rules, clearly inspired by Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide. Zombie Kill of the Week. And Tallahassee and his twinkie fixation, as far as I'm concerned, is instantly the stuff of horror movie legend.
And then there's Bill Murray. I don't think I'm really giving anything away here, since unless Sony execs have been sleeping for the past year, we can all agree that has long been common knowledge. And if you didn't know--tough, walk it off. Because I need to talk about it. For the simple virtue of the fact that his brilliant cameo takes this movie from clever zombie action flick to the instant cult classic I described it as in the title.
It's the kind of stuff that a movie geek would have fantasized about or dreamed up, but would never expect to actually see happen in a movie. And yet, there it is on the big screen, and man, is it ever classic. From now on, in my world, the man's name is no longer Bill Murray, but Bill F***ing Murray (see the flick and you'll get it).
Amazingly, this movie is a mere 80 minutes long, yet is packed with so much great stuff that the runtime feels just right. This is the kind of movie that's clearly a distillation of everything that's come before, as far as the zombie subgenre goes. It's like Fleischer and screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick sat down and figured out all the cool stuff they'd love to see in a kick-ass zombie movie, and made it happen.
I walked away from it thinking that it would make one hell of a TV series. Screw The Walking Dead--this is something that would keep me glued to the couch week in and week out for sure. Give me the weekly adventures of Tallahassee and Columbus on the road in post-apocalyptic America, and I'd be set. And from what I understand, Reese & Wernick, who were primarily TV writers before, did originally create it to be a series, but somewhere along the way it morphed into a feature film. Still, I say proceed with the original plan.
Sure, there's no way Harrelson would do it, but I say sign up Stone Cold Steve Austin to replace him, and make it happen. Well, a horror blogger can dream, anyway.