That's your story. The film delivers exactly that. Well that and plenty of humour, fun and action, as well as a great performance from Woody Harrelson and strong supporting from the other cast members, and a style that's a little unique, a little quirky, and always fun. Welcome to Zombieland, don't forget your seatbelt, that's rule number...
Anyway we meet Columbia at the beginning of the film who introduces us to his world and his rules for survival, something that's kept him alive, on the move, and alone. Alone that is until now, until he meets a man from Tallahassee who enjoys the little things in life, killing zombies and moving on. He too is a loner though, and he doesn't want to change now, but something about the misfit, hapless kid attracts his attention and he takes him along for the ride.
It's not long before they meet Wichita and Little Rock, two girls who were former scam artists now survivors, and they team up on a journey across country to a place where some of them believe there's no zombies, the only place in Zombieland.
There's something I really need to mention straight up, the first thing you'll notice about the film is the superb opening sequence. It delivers ultra-slow motion moments of people running away from or being chased and tackled by, zombies and the titles appear as part of the screen, people and objects interacting with them, knocking them over and making them move and fall. It's a great idea and works so well that it pulls you right in, keeping your attention from the opening moment.
This stylistic choice keeps going throughout the film in the form of the rules created by Columbia to stay alive. When discussing them or when actually actively applying them, they pop-up on screen as part of the scenery and interact with the characters. As one of the later rules says in the film, it's the little things.
There really isn't a great deal to Zombieland, after all it's a Zombie film, and while many other zombie films fall at that because they try to be so much more, Zombieland just does what it said on the tin and dives right into it without making any apologies or trying to build itself up into something it isn't, and that's where it's strength lies. The characters are thin, the plot shallow, but with style and comedy it does what it sets out to do well, entertaining on the way.
There are some great set-ups throughout the film that not only provide for some strong comedy moments, but also for the zombie killing action too, and coupled with that style it just adds a little extra layer to distinguish it from the other zombie killing films that are overflowing that genre bucket. The supermarket scene that begins with the banjo playing, and the following sequences about the boys versus girls is another well imagined section.
There are some superbly comic moments too, while I thought they weren't too common, there were enough moments that raised giggles and laughs, and one of the bigger laughs almost had me clapping, and that's something I don't tend to do in a cinema. So take that as a good sign.
Some of the best moments revolved around the superb cameo appearance, and while many of you will already know who that is, I went into it totally blindly and didn't realise who it was going to be. Even the initials on the gate had me confused, and when they entered the house and the paintings showed us who it was, I wasn't even sure the star would be in the film.
He is however, and it's a great cameo with some really funny moments, particularly seeing Harrelson play off of him during their two big scenes together.
The cameo does a good job as well, playing himself of course, but he turns back to a couple of old roles for the film and the re-enactment of an old scene is hilarious. Here's a tip, stay back for the closing credits to see a scene of Harrelson and the cameo together where he brings out a very old role, but one that I love.
Throughout the film, and not just with the scenes with the cameo, there are some references to other films, and they aren't steeped within themselves, trying to be overly clever or take you out of the film at all, these genuinely feel as though they are made from the character and in line with the story.
Still, despite all this there are some issues with clichés and incredibly dumb decisions from characters where you just wouldn't believe they would do such idiotic things, however they do. Part of that could be put down to the fact that they are humans and make stupid decisions, but a couple of them are just incredibly insane and against type and do distance me from the believability of the character somewhat.
The film isn't all light though, there are a few more serious moments in the film which tend to be sandwiched and wrapped in layers of the comedy and lighter side of the script, never being delved into too deeply, and the reveal of Tallahassee's love for his lost dog is one such moment.
I would say that it's here, with the characters themselves and their background stories that I would have liked to have seen a little more time and weight invested. For a little more reality and toughness here in the pre-zombie side of the story, might have made the post-zombie behaviour even more interesting, and not just on the level of shooting and hitting everything in site.
Come the closing sections of the story things get a little serious, a little bit more real, and it's here where the characters begin to find a little weight in the situation that they are in, it's not all lightness and humour. I'm happy that the film did this, and that it didn't stick with the humour all the way through, I do think that come the end of the film we would have been struggling a little with it had the reality not been brought in.
Strangely it's in this section that the clichés mainly arrive, but it also delivers a rather good ending that mainly pushes all the right buttons that you would expect but does leave you with a little bit of a surprise. As all the story threads point you towards one Hollywood direction, the film decides to steer it's own course, right at the very end of course.
Performance wise, Woody Harrelson was superb, as he always is, he's a joy to watch on screen and there's something about him that draws you to watch him perform.
However the second lead, Jesse Eisenberg, I found to be a little bit irritating after a while. His comic timing is very good and his deadpan delivery funny, but there were times when I would have liked to have seen a little variance in his style.
Emma Stone was a bit of a surprise as I first saw her and pegged her as the usual Hollywood young actress type, especially with that gravelly, over-smoked and partied voice, and yet she was a great surprise and she had a really strong character to play. She went from the protective mother/father type to the emotionally adolescent character around Columbus, and it was great to see that pay-off scene with the wine.
Abigail Breslin was great as Little Rock. Her character was strong and ballsy, and yet would return to being a little girl at times. She's undoubtedly an actress destined for greater things as she develops.
Finally I have one more thing to say about Zombieland, the soundtrack. It was a superb soundtrack, but it did feel as though they were squeezing in as many songs as possible, and the incredibly short outing that Van Halen received after so much trailer time was disappointing. I would have rather there was way more Van Halen, and I wish a little bit of Kiss.
Zombieland isn't very deep at all, but therein lies the fun of the film. It's about one big adventure playground that these characters are living in, and although there's danger, there's also loads of fun to be had, it's all about how you view it, and that goes for the film too.
It does what it says on the tin, and if you expect fun and cool moments then that's what you'll get, and something different from the genre pool of zombie films too.
There's some darker and more real life moments there too, but they're well cushioned so as not to pull the audience away from the main theme Zombieland.
Add in a great cast, a superb cameo, and strong actors, and Zombieland is well worth seeing.