Saturday, 27 April 2013

Zombieland (2009)

Many now respected directors started their careers in the zombie splatter genre.  Peter Jackson made his bones with Bad Taste (1987) and Braindead (1992), Sam Raimi first made Within the Woods (1978) and more famously The Evil Dead (1981).  More recently Zack Snyder’s first feature film was a visceral remake of the George A Romero classic Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Edgar Wright’s first feature was Zom-Rom-Com Shaun of the Dead (2004) (though I’m intrigued as to what his video short “Fun Dead” starring Keith Chegwin is like!).  So given that Zombieland is director Ruben Fleischer’s first feature length film, perhaps we can expect interesting things from him in future (though I didn’t hear amazing things about Gangster Squad (2013)).

Zombieland is definitely more in the vein of Shaun of the Dead than Bad Taste, less of the over the top gore (though there is plenty of that too).  Narrated by the main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) we are quickly introduced to the 5 rules for surviving a Zombie attack (cardio, double-tap, beware of bathrooms, buckle up and travel light), and after that the film is full of dark, gory humour.  Jesse Eisenberg is a likeable main character; a quiet conscientious kind of guy who seems to have applied logic to the zombie apocalypse, and so far his brain has kept him alive.  Tallahassee (Woody Harrleson) is a maniac in search of a Twinkie, whose unbridled joy at battering zombies has kept him alive; and though he seems an unlikely friend for Columbus, they get on together and form an unlikely alliance.  Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin complete the human cast, and they are both fine, but don’t really have as substantial a role as Eisenberg or Harrelson.

From the opening steady-cam tracking shot, and the subtle background CG effects to the way that the text for “The Rules” is integrated into the film, it is apparent that thought has gone into the making of Zombieland.  Ruben Fleischer is suitably inventive with his shots and camera work, so that the movie clips along nicely and keeps us down amongst the characters for much of the time; all helped by Cloverfield DP Michael Bonvillian.  The zombie effects are a mixture of practical and visual effects, but despite all of the blood being computer generated everything looks suitably gooey and convincing.

Everything amounts to a great little film with a wicked sense of humour, Eisenberg and Harrelson play off each other really well and enough is done differently to keep the zombie genre fresh and exciting. But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.