Avoiding the metaphoric set-up akin to that of a limping zombie, let’s bite straight at the hyperbolic jugular of this review: Zombieland is an unashamedly OTT slick slice of geektastic entertainment that easily ranks among the most enjoyable you’ll spend in a darkened room this year. Why? Because it is crafted with the deft touch of artists that recognise an audience bored by sub-standard fare and bloated running times, and more importantly it’s relentlessly hilarious from start to finish.
With a back story refreshingly encapsulated in a truncated sentence – zombie virus eradicates the human race, here are the survivors, go! – we are then taken through the rules of survival by awkward loner Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a moniker attained by his geographical destination. Essentially a road movie, his path soon crosses that of Twinkie obsessed narcissist Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and the two form a reluctant zombie splattering partnership across a ravaged America.
Genre mathematics usually dictates that horror plus comedy equals an unbalanced fudge of the two. Zombieland is fully aware of this fact and sensibly opts for the latter as its focus, simply because it’s easier to get a laugh out of something going “splat”, than to scare someone silly being, erm, silly.
Instantly quotable, the script is stacked with some real zingers and to highlight a few here won’t be to the detriment of the clever screenplay. Of course the performances help in voicing such achingly referential gems as “Rob Curtis is gearing up for Friday”, Eisenberg brilliantly bemoaning the “genius” of Facebook. And who’d have thought Woody Harrelson reciting lines from Babe would be so funny?
It’s one of those rare occasions when the passion put into making the movie translates to – and not alienates – the audience. Directed like a Looney Tunes cartoon, with flecks of blood peppering the lens and the numerous rules of survival graphics ingeniously integrated into the action, there is always inventive visual stimulation.
It’s lucky that the small cast share such an instant chemistry. Clichéd they may be but the actors stamp their own indelible impression on each character. Eisenberg is Michael Cera with range, Harrelson hasn’t had this much fun since the Cheers bar, Breslin plays against the cutesy moppet type from Little Miss Sunshine, and Stone holds her own as the feisty femme. The combination works so well that you almost resent the action set-pieces, but even they are played for laughs.
Comparisons with Shaun of the Dead are inevitable, but the only real similarity is that both films are excruciatingly funny and exist in the same genre. Zombieland certainly shouldn’t be bracketed – it’s as much the perfect date movie as it is post-pub movie. It’s a film lover’s film, and moviegoers should shuffle along in their droves to see it.