Friday, October 16, 2009

An Accurate Look At: "Zombieland"

A few months back, my buddy bought a $20 game for his Wii - House of the Dead: Overkill. Basically, it's like a video game version of Grindhouse, only you hold onto controllers instead of bags of popcorn.

Zombieland is, to put it simply, like a movie version of House of the Dead: Overkill. Plenty of action, lots of violence and gore, and great humour.

The TV spots really make it look stupid, but when I saw the trailer attached to District 9, my opinion changed. The trailer made Zombieland look like a laugh-filled action-packed romp through the zombie apocalypse, with sexual tension thrown in for good measure. Seemed sorta like Superbad with zombies (and not just because Jules is in it). Count me in!

The movie begins with a lame explanation of how the zombie infection began and spread, and though it is not plausible scientifically, it works in the humourous over-the-top-world of Zombieland. The main character/narrator, played by the guy from Adventureland (hmm, typecasted as -land movie protagonists?). It's not that I don't like him, it's just that I get the feeling that he's a Michael Cera replacement. "We can't get Mr. Cera, sir." "Then get me another funny, awkward, curly-haired Jew instead!"

The characters in the film don't have names. In order to prevent needless emotional attachment, the characters know each other by place names: where they're from, or where they're going. There are a few characters who do have names, but names are more like titles - in order to have a name, you have to earn/deserve it.

Columbus is the narrator, our guide through the United States of Zombieland. Throughout his travels, he will meet up with the badass Tallahassee (who "sets the standard of 'not to be fucked with'") and the sisters Wichita and Little Rock while trying to get back to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to find his family which may or may not still be alive.

Which brings me to an interesting idea. The survivors of Zombieland managed to live for one reason - they are smart. Columbus has a series of rules which he lives by, rules which keep him alive. Tallahassee knows how to fight, and then some. The sisters are con artists, and while they lack the survival skills of Tallahassee, or the structured logic of Columbus, they have remained alive due to their uncanny abilities of heartbreaking and swindling. But you can't swindle a zombie, so when they run out of humans they can exploit, they'll find themselves in a whole world of hurt.

Two things really surprised me about Zombieland. 1) The humour is fantastic. It is genuinely funny. I mean, really laugh-out-loud whole-theatre-roaring funny. I laughed harder than I thought and I would and loved it. 2) The writing was great. Zombieland is better written than it has any right to be. The dialogue was terrific and there was actual characterization. The characters are not just faceless zombie-killers. They each have backstories developed through flashbacks and dialogue. The characters are darker and deeper than you'd expect. I was caught by surprise. I should also point out that the acting was very good, better than the TV spots would lead you to believe. The good casting perfectly complements the writing and the characters really come to life. Excuse the unintended pun.

If you forgive the pun, it's a hilarious zombie film with brains. Put it on your shelf between Shawn of the Dead and the Evil Dead trilogy.