Saturday, October 3, 2009
'Zombieland' is Fresh Flesh
In retrospect, zombies have come a long way from shambling monstrosity to sprinting rabid devourer. Running zombies became the fad after ’28 Days Later.’ Zombie satire surfaced with the release of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ while ghoulish action sequences were popularized by Zack Snyder’s hyperactive interpretation of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ in 2004. For more zombie analysis, see my post below on Ghoulish Cinema.
But what is ‘Zombieland’? Where does this new addition to ghoulish cinema fit in the uncanny spectrum of undead storytelling?
The answer is in several places. For one, ‘Zombieland’ is a complex narrative---at least in terms of character---that follows an ungainly protagonist played by Jesse Eisenburg as he traverses across the ravaged and infested countryside. Along the way, he encounters Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson: the man with no restraint for “zombie killin’” as long as it meant he would come out on top with a twinkie. The story progresses and more characters come into the fold, creating tense relationships and enough witty dialogue to go around. By the time the credits roll, it is hard not to reflect on where the last hour and twenty minutes went.
‘Zombieland’ successfully combines elements from ‘28 Days Later’ with ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ an accomplishment that makes for more than a decent film. Ruben Fleischer’s directorial debut may well propel him to some degree of stardom: it was surprising to read early positive reviews on a film that seemed to have the dressings of a contemporary comedic attempt. In this respect, ‘Zombieland’ is a pleasant---albeit gory---surprise. Even Zack Snyder gets his slow-mo in all its glory with elements from ‘Dawn of the Dead’ at this movie’s intro, narrated conspicuously by Eisenburg’s character with tips concerning survival in a world filled with rabid undead ghouls.
This film is an amalgam of many things. Like ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was a romantic comedy at its core, somewhere beneath the explosive gut-spattering ‘Zombieland’ was a story threaded with thematic purpose, i.e. the definition of familial bonds. While this purpose is indeed half-hearted, ‘Zombieland’s witty tone maintains the continuity of character while cracking some heads in the process.
And that’s why we love zombie films. Because they are the genre that can pull it off.