Zombieland (2009) Review

Welcome to Zombruary, our celebration of all things undead and unburied. Every review this month will in some way be related to a zombie or undead film. I hope you enjoy as we revisit some old ones, and find a few new ones to take off the To Watch Pile.

One from the re watch pile…

Zombieland (2009)

Film: I‘m not the biggest fan of horror comedies, and that’s mainly because there is an inconsistency in how good they are. For every Return of the Living Dead’s there are, there is 4 that go between being ok, and just sucking. Thankfully, on occasion, you will get gems like Shaun of the Dead, or A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse or this film, Zombieland.

Zombieland is the tale of a phobia-driven young man (Jessie Eisenberg) who lives no longer in the United States of America, but instead in a world he likes to call Zombieland, a world overrun by the infected style of running zombie that purists seem to hate.

Our young hero has rules about surviving Zombieland, things like Rule Number 1: Cardio. Apparently the overweight were the first to die as they couldn’t escape the zombies. There are several others like Rule Number 7: Travel Light and Rule Number 31: Check the back seat. Basically his rules are the same ones we, the horror fans, shout at the screen whenever a young girl is left alone for any reason. I won’t go further into the other rules as it would spoil some terrible funny and funnily terrible scenes of carnage.

Anyway, on his way back to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where he hopes to be reunited with his estranged parents, he meets another seemingly bonkers survivor (Woody Harrelson) and the pair join up for safeties sake. This man tells him that names are unnecessary in Zombieland as attachments can lead to fatalities, and they refer to each other by their destinations: Columbus, the young man and Tallahassee, the nut-job redneck with a love of guns and cars.

The two stop in a mini-market so that Tallahassee can soothe his unstoppable need for Hostess Twinkies, and after they dispatch a few zombies in creative ways, they meet up with two young ladies, the soon to be known as Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and the four decide to make their way to California together, and so after a gargantuan amount of personality clashes, and several con-jobs later, they all realise that being loners may not be the way to survive Zombieland.

This film is directed by first time feature director Ruben Fleischer, from a script by Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick that was originally devised as the pilot for a TV series, which apparently by its timeframe, it would have been the first zombie TV series. Interestingly, since the advent of streaming TV, apparently there has been discussions of it returning as a series, a sequel is also in discussions.

The cast in this film were excellent. Jessie Eisenberg, who I normally am no fan of as he occasionally feels like a discount Michael Cera (or vice versa), was perfect in this role. Woody Harrelson is a classic as always as a gun-toting crackpot who has no problem sharing a few tears, even if just for his interesting ways of sending off the zombies. Emma Stone never ceases to amaze me: I loved her in Superbad, and as the hyper-nerd in House Bunny she was probably the funniest thing, but here she really makes this role her own: a femme fatale who is spending the rest of her life defending her younger sister. She is the straight man to Eisenberg’s phobias and Harrelson’s nuttiness, and pulls it off with ease. She is also a cracking good sort!! Abigail Breslin, who was nominated for a best Supporting Actress Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine is excellent as well, and holds her own against the other three personalities which could easily have overpowered her.

The cameo by Bill Murray is a classic as well. Especially with the tips of the hat they provide to things like Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.

The special effects are mostly average, though occasionally the CGI is so good that you won’t even notice half of it unless you watch the ‘making of’ stuff. I was stunned by some of the scenes that weren’t on location. There is a couple of ‘zombies get hit by stuff’ bits that are showing their age though. One really cool thing is that even when one of the rules isn’t mentioned, but is acted upon, you will see the rule written somewhere slightly hidden in the scene, with a solidity usually only seen in a David Fincher title sequence.

All in all it’s a fun film, but there are other films of its type that are better. The win for this film is the cast work together really well and form a funny yet warm-hearted cohesive ad-hoc family unit.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, whose image nothing short of spectacular and presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and with plenty of gunshots and a touch of heavy metal, this English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 kick MASSIVE arse.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this set, and in the set. This was the first release of the film and it came in a cardboard outer box, and featured a Bluray, DVD and digital copy of the film.

Beyond the Graveyard: Picture in Picture Track is a great extra, with a smaller window opening up in the main screen showing how effects were done, or amusing anecdotes from cast and crew.

Commentary by actors Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg, Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is a great one as those involved regularly ask each other questions about their aspects of the creation of the film, which keeps the conversation running.

In Search of Zombieland looks at the making of the film, and explores all aspects of its production.

Zombieland Is Your Land is more or less similar in tone to In Search of Zombieland, but seems to have more behind the scenes footage. If it had have been me, I would have combined these two together to make one really tremendous making of documentary.

Deleted Scenes is a bunch of scenes removed from the movie. They are: Zip Lock Bags, This Did Not Just Happen, Mum and Dad Would have To Wait, The jokes on Them, The Slow and the Weak, Girls Play at the park and You Always Think Of Something. Usually when I see deleted scenes I am quite happy to have seen them removed from the film, but some of these, particularly Zip Lock bags and you Always think Of Something, could have happily remained, though the rule number of Zip Lock Bags would have had to have been changed from number 2, which ended up being Double Tap.

Visual Effect Regression Scenes looks at the technical break up of four special effects scenes of the film, specifically Washington, Seat Belts, Banjo Zombie and Falling Zombie.

Theatrical Promo Trailers are a series of trailers that features Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg’s characters giving hints and tips on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. These interstitials are titled Bounty Towels, Bowling Ball, Buddy System, Skillet and Swiss Army. Quite funny.

This disc also featured trailers for Bluray as a format, 2012, Year One, Zombieland and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Score: *****

WISIA: Zombieland is almost as funny as Shaun of the Dead which for me is the gold standard of horror-comedy-zombie films but maybe has just a little more heart. I enjoyed every second of it, though I believe that Shaun has far more rewatch value than this.