As you all know 2009 has been pretty damn disappointing as far as studio films have gone. There have been quite a few indie & international flicks I've enjoyed thus far this year (The Hurt Locker, Sleep Dealer, Sunshine Cleaning, Dead Snow, etc.) but I'm still annoyed by the fact there's no better distribution system for UK films (it's right across the water, what's the goddamn problem?) and Hollywood being a year or more late to bring other international films to the US (Gomorrah, Ong Bak 2, Red Cliff, etc.). I really need to see a fun, clever, well written & executed flick that could end up being a cult hit/sensation to restore my faith in the medium (or just the North American film machine). Along came "Zombieland".
"Zombieland" tells the tale of a world where an infection spread that turned what seems to be the entire globe into zombies in about two months time. The story picks up with a young loner who narrates the story, explaining how his frail, neurotic ass managed to be one of the survivors as well as demonstrating his list of methods that have kept him alive so long in a world full of the undead. This film is hilarious from the moment it opens and the quick start has you hooked. In films like "Gamer" & "Surrogates" the quick explanation at the beginning made you feel like key parts of the backstory have been left out. Not here. That's excellent execution of a film's opening (for a damn change)
No one in the film really uses their government names anymore. Since your name identifies you in the context of a society or family one really isn't necessary. There's no one to talk to anymore. There's no need to pay bills. There's no more work to go to. Damn near everyone you once knew or loved is an undead godless creature that wants to eat your flesh. Using your real name just reminds you of all that over again. Besides, rather than get attached to people that might just turn on you or die later let's keep this shit at business. I'm from X, where are you from? Oh, for real? That's your name from now on. Where are you headed? That brings us to Woody Harrelson's character.
Our tiny, meek, neurotic loner encounters expert zombie killer and all around nutjob Tallahassee and things instantly begin to take off. Tallahassee dubs our young protagonist/narrator Columbus as he's headed for Columbus, Ohio. They team up together in an unlikely alliance in search of a place that isn't infested with the infected. Tallahasseee is convinced that such a place doesn't exist but he's willing to humor Columbus. Besides, he's on a quest of another sort...he's trying to locate a box of Twinkies before the expiration date runs out and they become extinct. Yes, he enters dangerous places teeming with the undead such as convenience stores, supermarkets and the like and kills his way to make the search for Twinkies easier. I didn't make that up. Brilliant.
While Columbus and Tallahassee have their hilarious adventures and trade philosophies about surviving a world where damn near everyone else is out to eat them they encounter the first other living humans in their travels. Needless to say the encounter doesn't go smoothly (I'm not on the spoilers with this one...I only use spoilers heavily when I don't like the movie in hopes to discourage my readers from spending money on it). After a few more uneasy encounters they finally decide to roll together in the face of being the only survivors they've encountered thus far in their extensive travels of the United States. The two sisters agree to join Columbus and Tallahassee in search of signs of life and shelter devoid of zombie infestation.
The appearance of the sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Stone and Breslin, respectively) adds another dimension of intrapersonal dynamics to the group. Being that they're both female, one is hot and has caught the eye of the meek Columbus and the other is a cute wisecracking kid. The foursome immediately seek out lodging, a place devoid of zombies and in Tallahasee's case the quest for a goddamn Twinkie rages onward. They all travel to Hollywood and I won't reveal what happens there but it's absolutely brilliant & hilarious. I can't stress how much I realized I was enjoying this movie and that was when it wasn't anywhere near being over yet.
The film's climax happens when the girls decide to travel to an amusement park to give Little Rock some semblance of a fun filled childhood in the face of a world that has gone to complete shit. No 12 year old should have to run around with a shotgun all the goddamn time while keeping a lookout for ferocious undead creatures. In any event, it's time for a big fat kill. It's time for Columbus to step it up and become a man and the perfect opportunity for Tallahassee to try to get the much coveted Zombie Kill Of The Week he seeks almost as much as a Twinkie.
"Zombieland" closes in grand form. The second it faded to black I had three thoughts: 1. This is going to be a hit. 2. I'm going to see this again with more people 3. They need to get everyone back and work on a sequel immediately. There are so many things you can do with this property in respect to having it become a franchise. Not only was it well written, clever and funny but the action was well executed as well. You actually care about what happened to Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock after they got out of that damn amusement park and left California. I'm sure they'll announce a "Zombieland 2" soon...I mean there's gonna be a "Saw 6" for God's sake! Now that's an undead franchise that needs to be killed.
Since the original writing of this review. I've seen this film 3x and I catch things I didn't see before. That's commendable considering it's only about 80 minutes long (that's usually a red flag but in this case? It makes you want more). When this movie finally hits DVD & Blu-Ray near the holiday season or New Year I imagine it's going to make a gang of dough then, too. I was more than impressed with this effort from the team of writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick alongside director Ruben Fleischer. Let's do it again, fellas. I give "Zombieland" a mos def.