He Said, She Said: Zombieland
By D. James Ruccio III
October 5, 2009
For whatever reason, particular things will capture the zeitgeist of a society. The current craze of the emotionally sensitive vampires and fast running zombies has taken over literature, movies and the backs of bedroom doors of tweener girls. And regarding the recent crop of emo, chaste vampires, what happened? Can I please have the return of Victorian Era, sexed-up vampires who live in foreboding castles, seduce young maidens and escape from stake, holy water and Bible-wielding maniacs. Vampires who don't have sex is pretty pointless. But at least the purity of the zombie remains intact. In fact, with the advent of zombies from 28 Days Later, their fundamental flaw of shuffling locomotion was rectified. It's true, though, that George A. Romero, the father of modern zombies, makes a convincing physical and creative defense of the slow undead, rigor mortis and the fact that it's far scarier to see something moving slowly towards a victim that can not be stopped. Regardless, with all things of the moment, eventually comedy will begin to express its take on a topic. Therefore, Zombieland was inevitable. And it is not to be missed.
Taking inspiration from Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is sort of the American version for American humor sensibilities and audiences. It's a sharply written barrage of fast dialogue, one liners, subtle and not so subtle movie references and surprisingly endearing character moments. But make no mistake, this is at its undead heart a zany, buddy, zombie killer movie.
Zombieland starts, like its zombies...fast. Jesse Eisenberg's character Columbus (named for his eventual destination) introduces the movie by reviewing - probably in a nod to Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide - his various rules for survival in zombie infested America. We watch him carefully review his rules through a series of scenarios and the hilarious results of anyone who deviates from them. We are also treated to an abundant amount of propulsive gore early and director Ruben Fleischer seems intent on dialing up the display of every possible bodily fluid. Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. If you think something can erupt out of a body it will, and Fleischer will make sure it's ejected with maximum escape velocity. For the more squishy adverse, however, this does not last throughout the length of the movie.
Columbus is played well by Jesse Eisenberg as a nebbish, neurotic hyper-phobic mess well known to audiences since the introduction of Woody Allen. The performance mostly works but there's nothing new here and it feels like the creators of Zombieland wrote the part for Michael Cera. But Eisenberg is not in the least a detraction from the movie. In fact, he has more than a few standout moments. One of his funniest moments comes early when we are cleverly introduced to his very first zombie experience when his neighbor in the apartment down the hall bangs on his door claiming to have been bitten by a crazy man. He lets her stay the night, nestled carefully in his arms only to wake in the morning to her rabid attentions. He is forced to defend himself with...a toilet tank lid. He dryly remarks later, "the first girl I let into my life tried to eat me."