‘Zombieland’ // Throwback Review

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Studio: Sony/ Columbia Pictures

MPAA Rating: Rated R for Horror Violence/Gore and Language

Something good always when a horror-comedy comes into play. Not always easy to tackle both popular genres at the same time, but it’s worth it once it gains your attention. 2009’s Zombieland takes on, of course, the post-apocalyptic zombie approach and done a mighty fine job. Does it still live up after ten years? Well, as the great Tallahassee says, “Time to nut up or shut up.”

What’s the Story: Zombies have taken over the country after a deadly virus has turned everyone into flesh-eating demons walking the earth. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a shy college student is trying to travel back to Ohio to see if his family is still alive with the strict rules he follows. Along the way, he meets the gun-toting, zombie hating Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigal Breslin) to make it through the wasteland of the undead and, in hopes, to reach a Los Angeles amusement park called Pacific Playland, where it’s zombie-free.

Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone in Zombieland (2009)

When I first watched the trailer for Zombieland, I thought it looked downright stupid, said the guy that was about to sit through the torture that was Year One when the trailer was released. Back then, I thought this was going to be a bad imitation of the zombie genre that trying to steal the thunder from a classic unknown comedy called Shaun of the Dead. So, as my 13-year-old self was sitting in the theater opening weekend with adult supervision around just expecting nothing, I fell for Zombieland as soon as the credits rolled.

Here is Ruben Fleischer’s debut feature film and he knocks it out of the park for a zombie story that was still in that stage where it wasn’t overpopulating the entertainment world just yet. And what I like is that it throws us into this world without having the unnecessary exposition and just has us ride along with these characters. It didn’t necessarily bring anything new that we haven’t seen before to know it’s going to be a great one.

The fact that Columbus has these rules on how to survive is surprisingly useful if a real zombie outbreak happens. The rules will show up on the screen as the scene demonstrates what to do. Nice job. Some of them include:

  • Rule #1. “Cardio”
  • Rule #2. “Double Tap”
  • Rule #31. “Check the Back Seat”
  • Rule #32. “Enjoy the Little Things”

For a cast that consists of four main actors, they had such wondrous chemistry with each other and gave great performances. Eisenberg was still at that stage where he was basically the next Michael Cera, which fits his character perfectly. But I bought his role as this shy person who knows his way around this messed up world. With Harrelson, I didn’t know much about him back then, and it was Zombieland that made me love him. You can tell he was having such a blast throughout filming. And I can’t forget to mention both Stone and Breslin, as they worked well together as well. Honestly, I cared about all these well-developed protagonists.

Upon re-watching it recently, I forgot how hilarious this was. Even from when I first saw it, I had no idea how funny this turned out to be. Just from the opening where Columbus explains a few of the rules to the awesome opening credits set to Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” as chaos ensues in the background, it’s never dull. Got to give credit to future Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for writing a ton of funny dialogue, mostly for any scenes between Harrelson and Eisenberg.

Another reason I love this movie is that the main goal Tallahassee wants to accomplish is finding the last Twinkies on earth. How could he not, they’re freakin’ delicious. They also had the good sense to know Twinkies are delicious and Sno Balls are flat-out disgusting.  But is it as funny as Shaun of the Dead? Not necessarily since that had more smart and clever writing, but there’s nothing wrong with what’s going on here.

And if you’re looking for some awesome zombie action, there’s a lot of it in fun fashion. The film does a great job of balancing the action and comedy in a way that doesn’t interfere with each other. It gets a bit gory, but not as heavy as other zombie movies. The third act had the best action set piece where it takes place at the amusement park and does a great job at using the environment around them and be creative for them the team has to kill the zombies.

Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland (2009)

By far, the best part out of everything from this was the cameo from the one and only Bill Murray, and it wasn’t disappointing in the slightest. Watch Tallahesse flip out over Murray is how I would honestly react if knew he was still alive. When Reese and Wernick talked about Zombieland on the Schmoes Know Podcast back in 2013, they talked about how they one of the cameos that they originally wanted was the late Patrick Swayze. They said the scene would involve Columbus and an undead Swayze recreating the famous pottery scene from Ghost. That sounded so hilarious, but I had to imagine it in my mind and wonder how everyone would react if it actually happened.

What was perhaps the biggest takeaway from this is that even though these group of survivors maybe don’t care for each other at first, it’s all about needing one another and protecting them at all cost. Columbus stated that he was never close to his family, and these three strangers that are a part of his journey is the closest family he got. The moments where it needs to be touching was rightfully earned and almost unexpected.

How would I describe Zombieland in three simple adjectives? Enjoyable, slick, and a blast. For those who are fans of zombies and want to have a lot of fun with a fast-paced adventure filled with undead mayhem, guns, and humorous story in-between, you should be no reason for you not to check this out. This is up there with The Hangover as one of the funniest movies that came out of 2009. Let me tell you, Zombieland is a gem of a horror-comedy that must be seen by everybody.

Quick Side Note: The first time I heard Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some!! was because of the trailers and the film itself. So, I thank Zombieland for that reason alone.

Grade: A-

2 thoughts on “‘Zombieland’ // Throwback Review

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