Zombieland (2009): Isn’t the Apocalypse Fun?

While Zombieland isn’t the first film to portray some of the material upsides to an apocalyptic world, it certainly sugarcoats the zombie-infested planet more than most. It’s goofy, entertaining, and witty, but it lacks a sense of purpose and sincerity.

America's new favorite pastime!

I had lots of fun with this movie despite some of my abstract (or even intellectual) qualms with it. Woody Harrelson steals the show as roughneck Tallahassee. Although you don’t have to be a master thief to steal a show from Columbus, who is played by Jesse Eisenberg. Columbus is “a bit of a bitch,” which is a terrific contrast to Tallahassee’s balls out demeanor. Columbus is the film’s lead, but he spends the majority of the film with Tallahassee, so you don’t have to worry about being bored with the weakling leading the show. The sisters that tag along, Wichita and Little Rock, are kind of annoying and unlikeable, which is expected. I’m not making a generalized statement about women here, but that would be pretty funny if I was.

At least the zombie apocalypse didn't stop them from looking good in designer clothing.

You’ve probably heard about the  over-the-top, hilarious opening credit sequence comprised of slow-motion and Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It’s absolutely brilliant—full of zombie carnage shot with high speed cameras for our viewing pleasure. Indeed, much of the footage from the trailer can be found in the titles. With gory visuals and a kick ass rock song to start things off, I was ready for a rollercoaster ride through Zombieland. Aren’t puns great?

SPOILER PARAGRAPH (But it shouldn’t be a surprise)

I’m afraid that the rest of the film never quite delivers. For one thing, there’s not nearly enough zombie action. Almost all of the blood and guts are shown in that title sequence. We don’t get a whole lot more. And why should we? The film follows four people, all of whom you know are not going to die since this is a Hollywood comedy. If this were a real zombie movie, somebody’s gonna die and somebody’s going to become one of the undead. I guess that rule never made it into the movie.


This pretty much sums up the movie.
Pretty shot. Not so scary. Funny looking zombies. Bumbling hero.

Zombieland is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It’s a comedy dressed up like a zombie film. The majority of the jokes could have been placed into any generic comedy. Still, the funniest moments in the film are usually zombie-related, but they just don’t happen nearly enough. Zombieland is also a Hollywood trope in the garb of an intelligent sub-genre. The zombie film is a chance to explore themes about human nature, the state of the world, consumerism, loyalty, death, science, and I could go on and on and on. It’s a comedy so it’s not going to touch on the same level of intellectual craft that Romero put forth, but I do expect some degree of thematic sincerity from any film. Since the moral of Zombieland isn’t quite clear (because there really isn’t one), the filmmakers try to insert themes into the movie through voice-over. It’s cheesy, half-hearted, and something that Hollywood loves to do. “And just so you didn’t think this was pointless, here’s what I learned from my experience…blah blah blah. Let’s wrap things up before the 2 hour mark.” There are other factors that made this film smell like a studio boardroom concoction: It seems like director Ruben Fleischer was picked out of a hat, there were lots of test screenings and a postponed release, and it was originally supposed to be a pilot for a TV show.

A fantastic makeup job that isn't showcased in the movie as much as it should be.

Despite a general feeling of superficiality surrounding the movie, it’s still pretty good with a slick presentation and sarcastic humor. The first half of the film is the best, while the transition between the second and third act drags on and the characters make some pretty stupid decisions around that time for the sake of the amusement park plotline. It’s not until the very end of the film that the cast actually ends up at the park. However, there are some seriously cool moments when they are there. Although I never felt like any of the characters were ever in any real danger, the conclusion of the film felt well-placed and rather snappy. A drawn-out ending could have been the death of Zombieland because people were ready to go before the credits even rolled.

Considering how built up this part was, it was a disappointing five seconds.

It’s no Shaun of the Dead, but it’s surely one of the better horror comedies (admittedly a tough genre fusion) I’ve seen for a while. Most everyone seems to love the film, so you just might puke zombie brain matter over my review.  I still think it’s worth a theatrical viewing if you have the cash, but don’t shoot yourself in the face if you can’t make it to the cinema.


  1. It was OKAY. I agree with you on this as you know, but I am more harsh on it than you are. The director didnt know shit about the genre.... soooo wtf is expected? A rated R Juno with zombies.

  2. that little girl zombie is amazing!! why won't studios let the effects ride? that's why their tickets sell and still no love. They can afford the best in the biz and most of it still hits the editting floor.

  3. Ahem, Metallica = metal. Sorry, but when someone says rock, Nickelback instantly pops into my head and I want to start punching babies.

    This film is good mindless fun. There really is no greater purpose and I'm cool with that. And the film featured the raddest cameo by an actor, EVER. Yes, I just said raddest.

  4. Nick, R-Rated Juno with zombies is a pretty good description, but it's still better than Juno and the dialogue isn't as annoying.

    Zach, You're right. I don't remember her even having a close up, but I could be wrong.

    Planet of Terror, Maybe you should look into that punching babies problem. :P Metal = subgenre of rock. When I hear rock, I think of Led Zeppelin or The Who. So I feel bad for you.

  5. Oh, snap. Being a lifelong metalhead I guess I've always considered it to be it's own genre. Carry on then, good lady :)

  6. Lol. I'm a little bit of a metalhead myself, so I know where you are coming from. If you love metal though, you should check out this post:

  7. 70% comedy and 30% zombies. It still works. Yes the zombies are just more background and the 4 main cities characters make the ha ha's. Sometimes you just have to take it for what it is. If it made you laugh, the movie did its job.

  8. Effing awesome! And I would totally pay to see a movie with Dio and co. as vampire slayers. IMHO, Dio is a better singer than Ozzy and Heaven and Hell is THE best Sabbath record.

  9. I had fun with the flick. It was predictable, they stayed a bit too long in BM's house, focused way too much on those annoying girls, and there certainly could have been a stronger focus on the zombies, but it was still an enjoyable movie-going experience. The opening alone was worth the price of admission. Metal + zombies = awesome. Plus, despite the taint of Hollywood meddling that can be found throughout the film, it's was still pretty balls out for a mass market flick, and it had some great dark comedic moments. You're right, it's no Shaun of the Dead, but it was a worthy Hollywood horror comedy. Just think how bad it would have been if they had made it PG-13.

    Oh, and speaking of Heaven and Hell, while I love me some Dio, I just don’t think you can beat Ozzy-era Sabbath.