Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Horror-thon #3: "Zombieland" (2009)

The festivities of this latest addition to the "zom-com" market begin as mankind is in the thick of a worldwide zombie epidemic. After a couple months, most of the planet has become devoid of human life, aside from a handful of unlikely survivors. Our hero is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a craven coward who's managed to elude consumption thanks to a strict set of rules. He eventually crosses paths with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), whose "take no prisoners" attitude has made him a bona fide zombie exterminator. The reluctant duo hits the road, where they encounter two sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) whose chicanery hasn't been hampered by the living dead. Together, the foursome venture out to a fabled amusement park said to be a safe zone for humans, though with a nation full of the undead ahead of them, getting there is easier said than done.

Zombieland is the sort of horror movie that reckons if you can't be scary, you might as well be fun. Save for a few exceptions, the undead haven't inspired much fear since they shuffled en masse in Dawn of the Dead (the '70s version, for you whipper-snappers). So rather than hoist another by-the-numbers chiller upon moviegoers, the gleefully demented crew behind Zombieland have chosen to live it up a little. Vital to the film's success is its abilty to stay on the safe side of self-aware. A few too many winks and nudges to horror fans would've sunk it, but first-time director Ruben Fleischer keeps things afloat with little effort. He's right there joshing along with the audience, displaying a devil-may-care attitude that (thanks to its loads of heavy metal and gore galore) enables him to give viewers pretty much exactly what they want out of a flick like this. The economic characterizations help as well, with good turns from all four leads (who make up about 90% of the non-zombified cast).

Aside from some occasional stop-and-go pacing that gets a little taxing, Zombieland works pretty well. Though not as wry as its spiritual brother Shaun of the Dead, it shares a similar snarkiness that allows it to simultaneously lampoon and celebrate its roots. After a year of enduring bummer after bummer, I'm relieved to say that Zombieland gives those with a hunger for horror a reason to bolt to their nearest multiplex.

(Full review to follow soon!)

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