With his feature-length debut, Ruben Fleischer has joined the pantheon of great zombie movie makers. From Romero, to Wright to Snyder, Fleischer deservedly rubs shoulders with them all. With the genre being oversaturated with sub-par entries, the undead are no longer the feared antagonists they once were.
The shambling horde’s apparent loss of menace has opened the door for a resurgence (or a re-animation, if you like) of zombie comedies. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead set the bar for future entrants, but Zombieland comfortably sits alongside it at the top. An already excellent ZomCom, Zombieland is made even better by arguably the greatest, most unexpected cameo of all time.
After an undead outbreak decimates the States, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) travels cross-country from his college to his home in Ohio. Along the way he joins up with three fellow survivors; violently efficient zombie killer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and untrusting sisters Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone). With Columbus being a social recluse, Tallahassee being just plain anti-social and the sisters having serious trust issues, it makes for entertaining bickering and persistent one-upmanship.
The meat of the comedy comes from the obvious clash of characters. The craven Columbus provides an amusing voiceover, frequently preaching the necessity of his “rules”, whereas Tallahassee clearly has no time for rules of any kind. Most zombie films are padded out with zombie-fodder characters, but here the minimalist cast works perfectly. We invest in these characters because not only are they likeable, but they’re literally the only characters on screen, at least until the aforementioned cameo. And what a cameo. It’s an egoless, self-parodying appearance by a comedy master, and to quote Tallahassee,
“It ain’t Bob Marley …”
Gleefully gory and delightfully random, Zombieland is a fine debut by a promising director. It’s a well-crafted zomedy presented with slick, almost comic book style visuals that’s hard not to be entertained by.