Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Amber Heard, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Why did the zombie lose his lawsuit? He didn’t have a leg to stand on…
Thank you! Thank you! I’m here all week…
Now, as you can see, mixing horror and comedy isn’t easy or often successful so it pays to keep a healthy dose of skepticism when the latest genre crossover arrives. The most recent one, theatrical smash hit Zombieland, is finally coming home in the UK – but is it worth your cash?
Zombieland opens with an introduction to our protagonist, known only as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, seemingly psychically channelling Michael Cera), as he gives us a rundown of a number of rules he has concocted for staying alive in a world overrun with the undead. On his travels he meets up with ass-kicking redneck Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and eventually two con artist sisters, Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, respectively), join the brigade.
That’s pretty much it as far as the plot goes as the rest of the movie basically just follows the foursome as they travel around, get into random zombie-infused situations and finish up fighting a zombie horde in an amusement park. Fin.
It’s easy to see that the original concept for Zombieland was a television show – the movie being an adapted pilot episode as it focuses mainly on introducing and developing the characters throughout the runtime, rather than leading them on a solid story arc. The fact that a sequel is already in development shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
If there’s one word that could sum up Zombieland, it’s “fun”. From start to finish, it’s a fast-paced ride and rarely lets up. The comedy comes thick and fast in the form of some excellent dialogue and visual gags, and the gore quotient is nothing to be scoffed at either. Extra special mention has to go to the opening credit sequence, which features one of the most toe-curling face-meet-road impacts ever. Without doubt the best opening sequence of the past year.
While the cast are uniformly excellent, Woody Harrelson steals the show as Tallahassee. He brings a wild authenticity to the character and really relishes the dialogue. He’s having a hell of a lot of fun here, and it’s impossible not to find it infectious. He’s only upstaged by what has already become known as “The Cameo”. I won’t spoil it in case you’re reading this and haven’t already seen the movie, but its inclusion is an absolute stroke of genius – one of many that regularly appear during the runtime.
Now for the negatives. For a film called Zombieland, the middle portion is seriously lacking in zombies. It’s almost as though the filmmakers just forgot what they were making save for one or two random appearances. If the world has been overrun, you’d expect to see a few more of the shambling mutants populating the countryside, but no, Zombieland makes the mistake of only introducing the flesh-eaters when the script feels like it. This robs the universe of authenticity.
The second major problem with the film is the climax. Rather, the motivation for said climax. You see, the two girls are heading to a theme park called Pacific Playland in order to recapture some of their youth amongst the disparate environment. So, they break in, switch EVERYTHING on, and then act shocked and surprised when a horde of fucking zombies shows up. Seriously? They didn’t consider for one moment that every ghoul within a radius of literally MILES is going to see this and be drawn to their presence? For a couple who have had the smarts to survive this long, they sure act like dumb shits simply because – you guessed it – the script wants a slam-bang zombie action finale. The “safe” nature of the film is also slightly irksome. I don’t think it would be particularly spoilersome to reveal that none of the main cast members will die. It’s not a major problem but feels a little like a cheat nonetheless.
Still, Zombieland is a hell of a good time – as long as you disengage your brain and don’t get too nit-picky, you’ll likely have a nice big grin on your face throughout. Packed with action, laughs, gore and some great zombie sequences, it’s just, as I said earlier, fun. Sometimes that’s all we need.
The UK Blu-ray release is pretty much identical to the existing US version. The picture clarity is stunning and the DTS-HD MA soundtrack brings everything to life. If you have the hardware, this is a must-have disc to show it off. It’s also dripping in special features. Both the DVD and Blu-ray releases share deleted scenes, a commentary track (featuring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Ruben Fleischer, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick), “In Search of Zombieland” behind-the-scenes featurette, a look at the visual effects development of a few scenes and a selection of promo trailers.
The Blu-ray includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes picture-in-picture track that pops up regularly to offer interviews, on-set footage, visual comparisons with the original and finished shots and more. This really enhances the viewing experience and is well worth a look. The Blu-ray also has the option to run the film with MovieIQ, an online system that provides access to trivia items, cast and crew info, etc., while you watch the movie. I can’t comment on whether this is in any way useful as I haven’t bothered hooking my Blu-ray player up to the Internet. Sue me.
The commentary track is well worth a listen with plenty of interesting anecdotes divulged – including some truly surprising comments on the use of visual effects. I sure as hell couldn’t tell that the upper half of Harrelson’s baseball bat in the convenience store (and accompanying blood) was entirely CGI. Could you? My only gripe with the commentary is that Harrelson doesn’t get involved enough as he comes up with some great stuff when he does.
So, overall, the movie itself is bags of fun and well worth having. Considering the disc is near reference quality in terms of tech, and packed with all the extras we really could have asked for in relation to the movie, you’ll find no qualms from me in providing a recommendation.
3 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5
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