I can’t tell you how long this one has sat in my Netflix DVD queue. Okay, I can say it probably has been a decade, because the film came out in 2009 and I probably put it on the list when it hit DVD in 2010. Not only that, I’ve had the DVD in my possession for the better part of six months. It wasn’t something I was watching reluctantly–I like a good zombie movie and really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead–I’m just lazy when it comes to watching DVDs (which is why I got into this whole “uncollecting” thing in the first place).
The movie’s a horror-comedy, I guess, although it’s more comedy coupled with gore fest than it is “horror.” Jesse Eisenberg (who is pretty much doing his best Michael Cera impersonation) narrates the film as Columbus, a twentysomething nerd who is exploring a post-apocalyptic United States (which he calls Zombieland, hence the film’s title) and during the course of his survival efforts has created rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse, which are outlined via smash cuts to people failing to follow those rules (the suburban mom escaping a group of zombified elementary school girls in princess costumes only to be killed when her SUV hits a flatbed truck and she goes flying through her windshield therefore demonstrating why you should wear your seatbelts is great) and screen captions that are a part of the background. He’s alone at first but then comes across Tallahassee, a stereotypical “cowboy” character with a love of Twinkies who is played by Woody Harrelson. They team up and eventually pick up Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), who are more focused on fending for themselves and conning the guys out of their stuff.
So it becomes a road flick that eventually makes its way from Texas (where the movie begins) to California, features what has become known as one of the best “playing oneself” appearances in a movie courtesy of Bill Murray, who is honestly great (although Keanu Reeves in Always Be My Maybe is the currently front-runner in this category), and the climactic battle takes places at an amusement park because that’s where Wichita and Little Rock wanted to go, not realizing that starting up Pacific Playland would attract a horde of zombies? Yunno, it’s dumb, but I appreciate the screenwriters leaning into the whole “people do stupid things in horror movies” trope.
This was fun to watch and pretty funny, and I appreciate the fact that the film doesn’t try to be anything smarter than it is (which some comedies try to do these days). What I found interesting when reading the IMDb trivia is that it was originally conceived as a television pilot and that didn’t get picked up and the screenplay got a reputation for being of the best unmade screenplays in Hollywood. I can see how this got retooled for a feature, but can also see the television series elements–Eisenberg’s narration, the rules, even the “zombie kill of the week” gag that involves a woman pressing a button that brings a grand piano down on a zombie’s head–and I wonder if this would have been a Parker Lewis Can’t Lose show but with zombies instead of high school kids.
Anyway, I don’t know if this is required viewing by any means, even if you’re a hardcore fan of the genre (I’m not “hard core” by any means, but have probably watched more than your average person). But I will say that it’s a tight 90 minutes and worth the streaming.
Watch or Skip?