I walked into a 2:15 showing of Zombieland today and was completely gobsmacked. The theater was absolutely packed. The movie had won me over before the trailers had even rolled. I was in an R-rated horror movie, at midday, in the largest theater in the multiplex and it was filled to capacity. That warmed the cockles of my heart.
As for the movie itself, it lived up to the theater’s expectations (everyone was whooping and cheering), but maybe not to the impossibly great buzz that the critical community has hoisted on it. Don’t get me wrong; when Zombieland works it is one of the best horror comedies of all time. The problem is that it also tries to shoehorn in a lot of dramatic moments that don’t always jive with the rest of the film, all while trying to maintain its light, goofy tone. Tonal shifts are no problem. Shaun of the Dead (it is literally impossible not to mention that other zombie comedy) is a great example; in its final act it straddles the line between comedy and straight-zombie movie with apparent ease. Zombieland never attempts this kind of balancing act. That’s great, it wasn’t Ruben Fleischer’s intent to ape Shaun, but those looking for either a laugh-a-minute comedy or a “scary” film might be a bit disappointed as the movie is really neither.
One area it doesn’t skimp is the gore. Zombies are dispatched in some gruesomely hilarious ways. There are some wonky moments in the finale but outside of that the effects are generally great. They are a good mix of traditional makeup and tastefully done CGI.
The young cast does a good job but it should come as no surprise that the real star here is Woody Harrelson. The man owns every scene he’s in and his character, Tallahassee, is destined to stand just below Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Peter (Ken Foree) as one of cinema’s top zombie killing badasses.
Also, I’m sure it’s been mentioned in other reviews but the film might have one of the best credits sequences of all time. Period.
To be totally honest with you, I’m a little tired of zombies. The genre has been glutted with films (both good and bad) over the past few years, but Zombieland is a film that gets it right. It’s a funny, smart, well-made film that keeps the self reference to a minimum and focuses on delivering good old zombie-smashing fun. I wouldn’t categorize it as a classic (and it definitely doesn’t de-throne Shaun of the Dead), but there is probably no better way to mix some laughs in with your blood this weekend.
Now for some more zombies: I’m attending a midnight screening of the 80s classic Return of the Living Dead!