When the world goes hell after an infectious strain of mad-cow turns everyone into mindless flesh-craving zombies, Columbus, a sheltered, introverted college freshman, heads for his hometown hoping to find his family, or what’s left of it, in the hellhole that he now refers to as Zombieland. Making his way through the post-apocalyptic wasteland with his strict list of survival rules, Columbus encounters other survivors like himself including Tallahassee, a natural-born killer with an insatiable craving for Twinkies, and Witchita and Little Rock, two con-artist sisters who only rely on each other. After a rocky first impression, the four decide to team up on their journey to the west coast in search of refuge and Twinkies.
Zombieland is a light-hearted, but darkly humorous take on the zombie subgenre and attempts, and arguably succeeds, at being the US’s answer to the wildly original and funny Shaun of the Dead. Though the laughs aren’t as non-stop or heavy-hitting as they are in Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland holds its own with a great cast, a unique style, and some clever action and convincing gore. The comedy is quirky and fun, but sometimes tries too hard to fit into the socially-awkward-in-a-cute-way paradigm pioneered by the Apatow brat pack. Also, hardcore horror fans might be a bit disappointed by the lack of genuinely scary moments, but as a fan of zombie-flicks myself, I can honestly say that this movie certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of thrills, gore, and occasional scares.
Also worth mentioning is the hilarious meta cameo by Bill Murray who plays himself in the film as a celebrity survivor of the chaos held up inside his Hollywood mansion. Perhaps if the rest of the film were as irreverent and hilarious as the scenes featuring Murray, I would have no choice but to admit that Zombieland is the western equal of Shaun of the Dead, but since the comedy is often more idiosyncratic than it is funny, it ultimately proves to be a good zombie movie, but fails to leave a mark as a great comedy.
The story itself is straight forward, the gang travel cross-country looking for respite from the zombie hordes, but like all zombie movies, the logic behind characters’ motivations is sometimes muddled in a grand sense; for some reason everyone in a zombie movie is convinced that they need to be alone and need to keep traveling around in order to survive even though it seems like the exact opposite is more strategically sound in a world dominated by zombies. Still, Zombieland plays around with the genre in a fresh and hip way making it a notable addition to the horror canon rather than just another forgettable zombie-flick.
Overall the image is pretty perfect; the 1080p AVC MPEG-4 Codec absolutely delivers. I could go on about the vibrant color, sharp clarity, excellent contrast, and utter detail in the image, but the best way to sum everything is to simply watch the gorgeous slo-mo intro sequence at the start of the film. It’s the heavenliest view of hell-on-earth I’ve ever bared witness to.
Again, the special effects and makeup are truly noteworthy here. I admire when a movie goes through the trouble of making sets, locations, and people look destroyed or mutated on a grand scale without resorting to heavy CGI. It just gives the film a noticeably more genuine look and feel.
Zombieland boasts a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, and though it’s quite satisfying, it’s not quite on par with the visual quality of the film. The audio is very front heavy and only occasionally makes use of any surround sound effects. Other than that, the dialogue is crisp and the music of the film perfectly captures the tone and urgency of the story. The constantly shifting tone of the movie (i.e. from comedy, to horror, to action, etc.) is a tall order for a soundtrack, but Zombieland pulls it off without a hitch. In fact, the music in the film is half of what makes it so memorable, it’s a nice mix of creepy rock horror.
Zombieland isn’t flooded with features like the endless horde in the film, but it does have a respectable offering. None of it really fills like filler and most of it is actually pretty intriguing and thoroughly entertaining. It’s definitely worth browsing through after watching the film in it’s entirety. Special features include:
Beyond the Graveyard
Picture-in-Picture of the same footage from the Visual Effects extra (below). The raw footage is timed to pop-up and play when the actual final footage plays in the film. Though the side-by-side comparison is somewhat interesting it ultimately ends up being a little more distracting than anything else considering that it’s much more convenient to just watch the separate Visual Effects special feature.
An audio commentary track featuring the director, writers, and stars Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. The banter stays consistently lively and even pretty funny as they discuss cut rules, favorite scenes, special effects, and in general what it was like to shoot various scenes. A pretty interesting listen if you have the time and can keep up with Eisenbergs mile-a-minute talking.
In Search of Zombieland and Zombieland is Your Land
Two featurettes interviewing the writers, director, and actors finding their take on the film, the characters, and the unique tone of the film.
7 scenes cut from the movie including an extra rule. Most these are just extensions of scenes that removed from the final cut, and rightfully so, but some of them are actually pretty funny.
Visual Effects Progression Scenes
An interesting look at how the visual effects were shot and compiled by examining the different layers of footage that went into making them.
Zombieland for the most part succeeds as both a menacing zombie-flick and a dark comedy, and its unique style, talented cast, and great visuals make it a broadly appealing purchase for anyone who loves movies. Though the great scares are far and few between, the film is smart and quirky enough to stand out in the crowd making it a great addition to the zombie horror sub-genre.