If there’s anything that’s become more of a pop-culture phenomenon than vampires, it’s zombies. There are countless videogame franchises that are focused on reanimated corpses, and it seems that we can’t go a year without at least two or three zombie flicks making their way to theaters. As a result, it becomes very difficult for a new zombie movie to lose the stigma of being “just another zombie movie.” However, the new movie Zombieland, which opened on Friday, offers a refreshing mix of comedy and gore that has brought a new twist to a sub-genre that has until recently grown quite stale.
Zombieland is a mash-up between two very different styles of movies. The main character, who is only ever referred to as his destination—Columbus—is a socially awkward, obsessive-compulsive twenty-something who has never had a girlfriend and preferred to make as little human contact as possible, even before the outbreak. He feels like someone who would more probably fit in a film like Superbad, and seeing him as one of the few survivors of the outbreak seems odd at first. However, with his OCD, Columbus is able to survive solely because he follows specific rules, like “buckle up” or “beware of bathrooms,” which keep him out of bad situations. Even with these rules, he is still quite cowardly and panics at nearly every turn.
During his travels, Columbus meets a fellow survivor, Tallahassee, who seems to have gotten his survival techniques from every action movie hero on the planet. Everything Tallahassee does is incredibly over-the-top, from the way he tries to set up the zombie kill of the week, the way he drives, and the way that his main goal in this post-apocalyptic setting is to enjoy one last Twinkie. Woody Harrelson’s performance as Tallahassee is spot on, hitting every note to make this character not only the best part of the movie, but also believable. The way the back-story is handled makes Tallahassee feel less like a hardened, cardboard-cut-out action hero, and more like a real character who has a reason for acting the way he does.
Although the performances in Zombieland are great, the film as a whole suffers in the first half. Every scene tends to jump back and forth between a comedy and a horror film, and, while both sides work, it feels a little disjointed when Tallahassee is cracking jokes about Columbus only to flashback to Columbus being attacked by a zombie, which actually offers some legitimate scares. It honestly felt like watching two completely different movies. However, as the film reaches the second half, and Columbus and Tallahassee are joined by two sisters, the film finally succeeds in blending the comedy with the action, building up to a truly spectacular final act.
The chemistry between all of the characters is believable, including the romance that arises between Columbus and one of the sisters, Wichita, which anyone could see coming a mile away. The characters are what make this film go from the typical zombie affair to something better. Zombieland isn’t just good for a zombie movie; it’s a good movie in general. There is a decent build of tension and a cast of characters that everyone in the theater will be rooting for by the end. Zombieland is a movie that shouldn’t be missed; it gives a new take on the zombie sub-genre by mixing insane amounts of gore and laughs together in a way that will please any filmgoer who isn’t squeamish.