"Everything about Zombieland works, from the expositional flashbacks, to Columbus’ voice-over narration, to the well-judged but sudden changes in tone."

“We are very self-satisfied,” states Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, during the DVD commentary track, and with good reason too. At the time of the commentary recording, Zombieland was the number one movie in the States and has since become the highest grossing zombie movie of all time. I’ll repeat that: The Highest Grossing Zombie Movie of All Time. All this by people who weren’t fans of the Z-film genre. So, in tribute to the film's anal protagonist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), here are some rules of just what makes Zombieland a resounding success.

Rule 1: A good film begins with a good script. Originally developed by writers Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick as a TV pilot, the story of Zombieland is a mish-mash of buddy comedy and romance, with added zombies, of course. So far so Shaun Of The Dead but, truth be told, this is a different beast. Where Shaun takes aim at the quintessentially British rom-com genre and zombifies it, Zombieland is more focused on infecting the distinctly American road movie and ‘mismatched partner’ narrative. And what a mismatch it is.

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Meet Columbus, a dysfunctional and slightly misanthropic student who survives by following his own self-imposed rules in Zombieland. Meet Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a gruff and brash man with a personal grievance with the undead and a hunger for Twinkies. The duo bicker their way across the US until they cross paths with sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), con artists who try taking them for all they’re worth and who are on their own quest to find a theme park called Pacific Playland. Together these four drifters are each on their own search for some semblance of a more innocent time before that whole apocalypse thing.

Rule 2: A film is only as accomplished as the talent involved. The casting for the major characters is dead on, with Eisenberg continuing his run as the geeky leading man du jour, following his role in the similarly titled and similarly excellent Adventureland. As the main supporting character, Harrelson is a fine everyman counterbalance to Eisenberg’s nerd and is at his funniest here since Kingpin, while Stone and Breslin provide interesting foils to the male leads. And the much publicised cameo appearance (if you want to know who go to IMDB or another review) is inspired, too.

Fleischer’s background in adverts and music videos is put to fine effect, as everything about Zombieland is very slick. The director makes good use of onscreen graphics and slow motion (notably in the titles sequence) and the action, too, is exciting yet witty, even if the film isn’t particularly scary for a film called Zombieland.

Rule 3: Zombieland rules, no rule necessary! Everything about Zombieland works, from the expositional flashbacks, to Columbus’ voice-over narration, to the well-judged but sudden changes in tone. Credit is due again to the writers as this is a well-developed story with fun characters that, unusually for the Z-film genre, actually have depth. Credit is also due to the actors who inhabit the roles so well and to director Fleischer who visualises the world so vividly. With a 3D sequel in pre-production, it will be interesting to see where the writers go with this franchise, as this was an excellent introduction to the characters and their world, the United States of Zombieland.

Reviewed on: 16 Mar 2010
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Zombieland packshot
When the world is overrun by zombies, four people try to survive.
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Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray

Year: 2009

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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