ZOMBIELAND drops the audience right into a world already crawling with zombies, and while it's bad enough that legions of ravenous flesh-eaters are literally every goddamned place, what's even worse is that these aren't the rigor-ridden shamblers as seen in most horror films of yore; rather they're quite spry and able to sprint after you, so unless you're in good shape, that's your ass.
The film's ostensible hero is "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg), so named for his intended destination, where he hopes against all odds to find his parents still alive. He's a college-age nerd and loner whose lifetime of friendlessness has given him time to think and develop an analytical mind, and once the zombie plague breaks out he's ready for it with a list of basic common sense rules relating to the world's new and utterly deadly status quo. With damned near everybody (un)dead, it's a simple matter to appropriate vehicles and high-gauge weapons, but when Columbus totals his car, he hits the road on foot and eventually is given a lift by "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson, looking exactly like a comedic version of his Mickey Knox character from NATURAL BORN KILLERS), a redneck genius at zombie-killing who shows up in an SUV equipped with a cow-catcher up front. The two set off together and then encounter a pair of sisters, "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin), a couple of smart, ruthless and totally survival-oriented chicks whose personal philosophy can be summed up as "trust no one but each other and look out for Number One." These two give the guys quite a hard time and outfox them on a few occasions before teaming up with them and more or less aimlessly journeying through "Zombieland" (the nickname for the world at large) and becoming a loose-knit family in the process.
The family that slays together, stays together: (L to R) Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson).
To say more would give away a lot of fun stuff — especially a major surprise cameo that I know for a fact has long since been let out of the bag in numerous online forums, but I'm not gonna do that; in fact, if anyone starts to tell you about the cameo sequence, punch them in the mouth, Hard — So I'll just stop right here and instead offer a little advice.
ZOMBIELAND is thoroughly entertaining, very funny, and is definitely worth your time. In terms of attitude, it's America's answer to SHAUN OF THE DEAD (though admittedly not as good), and the appetite for destruction that is so hard-wired into the American psyche is given full unintentional (?) reign. However I do have two warnings about the film:
- As previously stated, do not let anyone tell you about the cameo sequence.
- Giving away nothing in the plot, much of the film's running time is spent clearly establishing Wichita and Little Rock as ruthless, cunning, survival-minded opportunists who are perfectly suited to strategically getting by in a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies, yet during the final act they do something completely stupid that the audience by that time understands with absolute certainty that they would NOT do. The move in question violates what they (and we) know about what attracts zombies en masse and no one in the audience I saw it with bought it when the script called for a needless bit of conflict. Luckily there was still a lot of gore, violence and humor to follow, and what came before was so good that I was willing to let the major scripting fuckup slide.
Lesson to be learned: let no zombie stand in the way of Tallahassee's quest for Twinkies.