TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
MPAA – R for horror violence/gore and language
DIRECTOR: Ruben Fleischer
WRITERS: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
PRODUCER: Gavin Polone
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Bonvillain (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, and Bill Murray
It is common wisdom that horror comedies do not do well at the box office, but last year’s late summer horror comedy, Zombieland, was a hit. Things seemed to come together for this peculiar zombie flick that mixes the zombie apocalypse genre both with gleeful destruction and with silver-tongued clowning.
The United States of America is no more. The world is no more. All there is left is Zombieland. Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) is an easily spooked guy and, in general, a big wuss, but he has managed to stay alive using his book of rules. He joins forces with a wild man named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a gun-toting, zombie-slaying badass whose primary goal is to find the last Twinkie on earth. Together, they fight for survival in a world virtually taken over by freakish zombies.
Columbus and Tallahassee eventually meet two others survivors, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have a unique way surviving the zombie mayhem. These young ladies are traveling west to a supposedly-safe, abandoned amusement park, Pacific Playland. As they join forces, these four people will have to determine which is worse: trusting each other or succumbing to the undead hordes.
Zombieland does work as a zombie movie simply because the zombies are convincingly dangerous and frightful. The film even has that air of doom, desperation, and forlorn resignation that permeates most zombie movies. Although it is clearly a descendant George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, while also borrowing the fast zombies from 28 Days Later, Zombieland is most closely aligned with the 2004 zombie horror comedy, Shaun of the Dead.
As a comedy, Zombieland is not particularly sarcastic, snarky, or even edgy. It is, however, witty and has a wry sense of humor. The film feels so strange because the humor is absolutely at odds with the terror of the zombie death lurking around every corner. The comedy seems most dry and droll when the cast is killing zombies, and there is nothing like deadpan humor in the face of bile- and blood-drooling monsters.
The performances are good, with Jesse Eisenberg pitch perfect as the hapless, virginal everyman, Columbus. Woody Harrelson is brilliant, and the proof of his exceptional talents is that he brings the same skill and dedication to this zombie movie that he does to his more serious (if you will) dramatic work. Director Ruben Fleischer, a veteran of late-night television and reality shows (Rob & Big, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”), creates the right tone for practically every scene, seeming to know when the movie should be comic, gross, scary, poignant, or just odd. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have created a concept, story, and characters that give the impression of being brand spanking new, while managing to make their influences practically not obvious.
Zombieland is a fine zombie movie. It is a distinctive horror comedy with inimitable style. I don’t know why it works, but I love this strange new film feast made from old genre ingredients.
7 of 10
Saturday, March 27, 2010