Movie Review – Zombieland

Hilarious, spot-on horror-comedy that feels fresh and exciting after decades of zombie films – Zombieland is terrific entertainment, and destined to be a cult classic in years to come, if it isn’t already.


– Summary –

Director : Ruben Fleischer
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray
Approx Running Time : 88 Minutes
Synopsis: The world is decimated by a virus that turns almost everyone into zombies. Except for a poor, unlucky few, who must survive it.
What we think : Hilarious, spot-on horror-comedy that feels fresh and exciting after decades of zombie films – Zombieland is terrific entertainment, and destined to be a cult classic in years to come, if it isn’t already.


I’m not entirely sure exactly why zombies make for good comedy fodder, but they do. After Shaun of The Dead reinvigorated the splatter-comedy genre almost single-handedly, director Ruben Fleischer has given us Zombieland, a more Hollywood-ised version of the same kind of film: the Earth is decimated by zombies (damn you Mad Cow Disease!) and a few lone survivors must band together to reach some sort of safe haven. Along the way, a social commentary takes place highlighting the fact that even at our most frightened, we seek solace in our fellow man, shooting the walking undead and generally behaving like unrepentant anarchists. Zombieland isn’t trying to be politically correct, nor is it trying to generate laughs from any kind of visual slapstick aesthetic, rather, it’s a mix of both intellectual and physical comedy which delivers the entertainment here. I’d heard good reports about this film, not only from zombie purists but from casual viewers as well, those without a vested interest in the splatter fest unleashed upon us.

Look more like dirty homeless people than zombies if you ask me…

College student “Columbus” (Jessie Eisenberg) is travelling across a post-apocalyptic USA to Columbus, Ohio, to find his parents. According to his narration (and some quite cool visual cues), the world has been all but annihilated by a zombie-like virus derived from a mutated form of Mad Cow Disease, leaving only a handful of survivors. Along the way, Columbus meets Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson), who is on his own quest to find any and all remaining Twinkies (for non-US viewers, a Twinkie is like a cream filled bun, renowned for its long-lasting… ahem… freshness…) and taking down any zombies he comes across. They decide to join forces, and become traveling companions, until they meet Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) at a supermarket, where the boys are conned into handing over their weapons. The girls take off, leaving Columbus and Tallahasse unarmed and desperate to find a way to escape potential zombie encounters. Eventually, however, Tallahasse and Columbus catch up with the girls, who are trying to get to Pacific Playland, an amusement park on the west coast, in a last ditch effort to feel human again. Along the way, they stop in at Bill Murray’s house, and kill off a whole lot of zombies.

Being chased by a stripper zombie? Um… cool!!

Zombieland is a pretty easy film to like. It’s got plenty of wry, socially pointed humor, some deft physical turns of violence in the face of zombie-film conventions, and one hell of a cameo from Bill Murray. The story itself isn’t exactly new: it’s a Quest film mixed with a hint of Apocalypse movie, sprinkled with a few moments of pathos and comedy, and enough style to make you almost forget the lack of genuine character development on offer here. Fleischer invigorates the slim plot with a wry turn of humor with the set-pieces: the use of Rules by Columbus as he travels across the country, rules to survive by, provide both the comedic and the expectant – the ease with which the zombies can be defeated is both a source of comedy and a source of drama, because they aren’t easily defeated without a comprehensive evisceration. Tallahasse’s self-centered character also generates plenty of laughs, even if Harrelson’s uneven portrayal of a man beset with an enormous grief sometimes slides into almost self-parody. Harrelson’s having fun here, though, which means the audience is too. Social Network star Jessie Eisenberg is resolutely the straight man here, the “voice of reason” Everyman character around which the film’s narrative pivots. Eisenberg is practically the same character in almost every film he’s in, and Zombieland is no different, although, as with Social Network, the casting fits the character perfectly.

Got wood?

Emma Stone, as Wichita, and Abigail Breslin, as Little Rock, don’t get as many laughs, nor do they have much in the way of character development, so attaching yourself emotionally to them as characters is a little difficult; the fact they also behave like complete bitches to emasculate our boys is annoying after the third or fourth time. Meanwhile, it’s taken me far too long to mention the best bit of this entire film: the extended cameo by one comedy legend, Bill Murray, as himself. If there was ever a single reason to watch a film, it’s Murray’s gut-busting turn here. He’s hilarious, as usual, as the kinda zombie you actually wanna meet, and although he’s barely in the film, his appearance actually improves upon something already pretty damn good.

Sneaky sneaky!

Where the film derives a lot of its subversive humor is in the post-apocalyptic relationship breakdowns of the characters – these aren’t people who’d normally be drawn to each other, and although through circumstance they’re forced to this time, it’s begrudgingly, with a sense of last-of-humanity fatalism. The script feels loosely cobbled together, almost haphazard at times, although that wasn’t the case in actuality. It just feels like it, feels organic and realistic, if this actually happened and these people actually existed. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese’s script is a laugh, a hoot, and absolutely the way zombiepocalypse should be written. There’s a hint of Shaun of The Dead humor, touches of Dawn of The Dead (Romero, not Snyder) and 28 Days Later, although the carnage and “horror” aspects are portrayed highly tongue-in-cheek and without the stomach churning sense of absolute reality those other classics had in spades.

Now girls, don’t get all girly on me when the blood starts spurtin’, okay? That includes you Mark Zuckerberg!

Zombieland is nothing if not enjoyable: the humor and casual observances in post-apocalypse USA are both subtle and definitive, and altogether hilarious. This is, without doubt, one of the funniest horror/comedy films to come out in quite a while, and it while comparisons with Shaun of The Dead are inevitable, they’re also accurate – Zombieland does for American zombie films what Shaun of The Dead did for those in England. If you only watch one zombie film this year, make it this one.


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12 thoughts on “Movie Review – Zombieland

  1. I think because Zombieland feels too much like a post-Shaun of the Dead film, made particularly to pander to an American audience, I couldn't give it full marks. In that sense, it didn't feel fresh enough. Shaun worked both in the UK, US and elsewhere, and while Zombieland works equally well across the world, so do most Hollywood films. British-made films, much like Australian, have a tougher task. But there is so much to like about Zombieland that I still had to rate it very highly and the cameo is one of the best things I've seen since…erm…Groundhog Day!!! 🙂

    1. I think I understand what you mean, although I disagree that Zombieland wasn't "fresh" enough – it was an alternative to Shaun Of The Dead in its comedic content, insomuch as it was very, very American, which in itself wasn't a bad thing, although it did seem to pander to US audiences more than a worldwide one. Still, that's not a major problem with it, because most Hollywood films are made for US audiences by default…..

  2. I remember this when it first came out and it was so much fun but I just never understood just why the hell these girls went to an amusement park where there was bright lights, loud noises, sounds, and just a whole bunch of crap going on that it would attract the most attention of anything. Nice review though Rod!

    1. I agree, that amusement park finale just came across as a little "huh? That's there they want to go – where all the noise is?" and you're right, from a distance that's just stupid. Still, it didn't harm my enjoyment of the film, though!

  3. In the minority here, I liked it but didn't deem it anything very special, though definitely entertaining. Nice review!

    1. Yeah, I'm slowly gathering that from various reviews and responses I'm reading that you either really really love it, or mildly enjoyed it – I don't think too many people outright hated it though, which is good.

  4. Wow. I love you review style. Where did you get such nice screen grabs? I love this movie and it's a shame that it might be compared to 'Shawn of the Dead'. Although that's a damn fine film to be compared to.

    1. Thanks Max! Glad to have you stop by. All my images in each review are pics I've sourced off the web; it's actually pretty easy to come by them, I just get the highest resolutions ones I can.

      Nah, I don't think any comparisons to Shaun of The Dead will hurt this film, because it is (for once) an accurate comparison – both films are hilarious in their own way!

  5. YES! i couldn't agree more about the "if you see one zombie movie a year let it be this one" thing. i through the movie was fantastic as well. Looking over my review, though, i see i docked it half a shot because it got boring after Murray left and another half shot because i thought Eisenberg was amateurish. But still, all in all, one kick ass film, to be sure. Glad to read you liked it as well.

    1. Yay! We both enjoyed a film!! Ahem. Re: Eisenberg – he strikes me as a new millennium version of Woody Allen, before Woody slept with his own daughter. His stammering, rapid-fire delivery and mannerisms seem a lot like Allen's schtick to me (whether that's a good or bad thing depends on whether or not you like Woody Allen, I guess), but most of the time it drives me up the wall. I'm not a huge fan of Eisenberg, because I think he plays one character the entire time, and I would have to say the same thing about Allen. There's nothing better than a versatile actor, if you ask me, and Eisenberg… isn't.

      When I get a moment I'll amend my review to link to yours (I wrote this review back in April, and wasn't doing many backlinks at the time).

  6. Wow you really loved it! I was disappointed by it when I went to see it in theater and although I have grown to like it for what it is in subsequent viewing, it's really quite inconsequential as a movie. That Bill Murray cameo is totally hilarious but seriously, without it, the movie would be like 50 minutes.

    1. Man Castor, I think you're in the minority on that one. Most people (in fact, everyone I know) has really enjoyed it – except you now. LOL! I'm keen to know why you think it's an inconsequential film, though. Sounds like you've given it some thought!

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