Welcome back to another edition of Late To The Party, the weekly(ish) feature where the iHorror writers take turns discovering movies that, frankly, we should have discovered years earlier. This week, I caught up with the cool kids by watching 2009’s Zombieland.
My reason for not having seen Zombieland before now is simple. I was biased against it solely because it is a zombie movie. For the better part of the last decade, zombies have been tedious and boring staples of pop culture. Sure, every once in a while something cool and fun will come along (28 Days Later… and Warm Bodies come immediately to mind), but for the most part, zombies are old hat. Zombieland didn’t interest me because it looked like a typical zombie movie. Anyone who has seen it, however, could have told me that it is far from a typical zombie movie.
Going into Zombieland, there were, of course, things that I knew about it. Obviously, I knew from the title that it was going to be about the zombie apocalypse. I knew it starred Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. I knew part of the plot revolved around Harrelson’s character searching for a Twinkie. I knew that Bill Murray had a cameo in it. And I knew that it was a horror comedy, although with what passes for comedy today, that didn’t necessarily mean that it would be funny. So, armed with this information and my $4.99 Blu-ray (really, it’s surprisingly cheap for such a recently released movie), I set out to tackle Zombieland.
The first thing that struck me about the movie was how hip and cool it was. Of course, with Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone in the cast, I knew that it would be targeting a millennial crowd, but I did not expect all of the slick, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World-esque graphics and titles and such – in some places, when the takes are long and the shots are wide, it’s a bit like watching someone play a video game, with instructions and scores popping up every now and again. Right away, it was clear to me that this was not going to be a stodgy old zombie movie. This was fun.
I was also impressed by how director Ruben Fleischer seemed to admit to himself and to his audience that zombies really aren’t all that frightening anymore, so he didn’t even try for scares. Instead, he focused on the action sequences and the comic gags. He let the talented actors take their colorful characters and run with them, not tying them down to whatever may be “scary” or not. And it works – a lot of people might be upset by my saying this, but Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee is a much more entertaining zombie killer than Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon (but, of course, I also think that The Walking Dead is a big culprit in today’s pop-culture oversaturation of zombies, but that’s another article).
While I’m pissing people off, I may as well admit that I think I enjoyed Zombieland more than I enjoyed its across-the-pond spirit animal Shaun of the Dead. Of course, British humor doesn’t always hit its mark with me, but besides that, Zombieland is just more of a fast paced, fun-filled thrill ride of a movie than Shaun of the Dead. I didn’t like it as much as Warm Bodies, but that’s apples and oranges. Zombieland is good because it keeps a consistently perfect blend of character and action throughout the movie, and does so with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.
So basically, Zombieland left me wanting more (in a good way), and now I’m a little more pumped for the impending sequel than I was before. I’m still bored by typical modern zombie movies, though. It’ll take more than just Zombieland to change that.