Futuristic Movie Month: "Zombieland" Review

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A 2009 horror comedy film in which a cowardly shut-in named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to join up with a seasoned zombie slayer named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) in order to survive the zombie apocalypse. Emma Stone, Amber Heard & Abigail Breslin also star.
3.5

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Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: October 2, 2009
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Genre: Comedy / Horror

"Zombieland" stars Woody Harrelson, Jessie Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as survivors of a zombie apocalypse. After a chance encounter, the group sets out in search of an area of the country that is free of zombies. However, things don't go as planned when they arrive at what they thought was a zombie-free amusement park in California, and they end up fighting for their lives.

Plot Summary

"Zombieland" opens mere months after a strain of mad cow disease has turned virtually all Americans into zombies. Columbus – a college student living in Austin, Texas, begins a trip back to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to see if his family has survived. Shortly after leaving, Columbus changes his course after he encounters a man named Tallahassee who is on his way to the West Coast.

As Columbus and Tallahassee make their way through zombie-infested cities, the two men begin to reveal their pasts and their feelings about being two of the last survivors. When the pair stops to get supplies, they meet two sisters – Wichita and Little Rock. The sisters soon con the men out of their weapons and their vehicle. However, Columbus and Tallahassee catch up with them and the four agree to an uneasy truce.

Since the sisters are going to an amusement park called Pacific Playland in Los Angeles that is supposedly free of zombies, the men agree to come along. By the time the group arrives in California, Columbus has developed feelings for Little Rock, and Tallahassee and Wichita show interest in one another.

Wanting to avoid taking the risk of starting relationships, Little Rock and Wichita leave in the middle of the night and make their way to Pacific Playland. When they turn on the rides, they unknowingly attract a nearby group of zombies. With time running out, Columbus and Tallahassee make a desperate attempt to save the sisters.

Cast

The characters in "Zombieland" are all very different and contrast well with one another. Woody Harrelson plays the tough, violence-loving Tallahassee. Harrelson's performance is notable because he strikes a great balance by highlighting the front his character constructs after losing his son, and also by allowing his character to be emotionally receptive to forging new relationships. On the other hand, Jessie Eisenberg plays Columbus, who is immensely afraid of dying. Although this character seems somewhat naive about his circumstances, Eisenberg finishes the film by reinforcing the fact that his character has become more confident in his ability to survive. 

Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone both perform very well and create the perfect counterparts to Columbus and Tallahassee. The brief cameo by Bill Murray is excellent and adds a much-needed comedic element that breaks up the violence in the film.

Film Analysis

"Zombieland" expertly blends the horror and comedy genres. Although the group of survivors face a near constant threat of death – and do plenty of killing – the characters are constructed in a way that they each add humor to the film. Tallahassee's unique perspective on the situation - and zest for killing zombies – and Columbus' many rules for survival break up the steady succession of killing sprees and zombie attacks.

In addition to comedy, the plot contains some elements of drama. The relationships forged between the characters – especially the romantic relationships – make the tone of the film more serious at times. The added subplots work well with the main story and give the film more substance. The relationships stop just short of developing, though, which keeps most of the focus on the characters' struggles to survive.

The entire movie is paced well, although the events leading up to the climax seem to breeze by. The constant change of location and introduction of more characters helps the film keep up a steady pace. The climax of the film is equally fast-paced with simultaneous attacks from multiple groups of zombies. The amusement park is an excellent backdrop to these scenes, and it really creates a contrast between light-hearted fun and the lurking presence of death.

The witty dialogue and special effects complete the film. The majority of the movie involves only four characters, but the constant dialogue keeps the film engaging. The special effects are equally impressive, and the zombies are both fascinating to look at and also slightly terrifying.

Altogether, "Zombieland" is a film that does the horror genre justice. However, there are also some comedic and dramatic elements that add depth to the story and explain the characters' backgrounds. With interesting dialogue, impressive acting and great special effects, there is no reason not to see this movie.