.Originally envisioned as a television series that never made it beyond paper, Zombieland is the resulting feature re-working and Ruben Fleischer's directorial film debut as his homage to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's already iconic Shaun of the Dead. I stayed completely away from details concerning the plot all this time, but I did hear some wishy-washy sentiments regarding what has become the highest grossing zombie flick of all time. So was my first trip to Zombieland last night worth it?
Thinking back, they had me at For Whom the Bell Tolls. Like Shaun, Fleischer's infected-raving-maniac-as-zombie film, something explicitly stated in the making-of, is certainly a ballsy proposal. Perhaps a bit too much so for some, as it's a film that needs to grab a certain response out of the viewers in order to jibe with what it's trying to convey. What is that message? Well, it's nothing like what your average moviegoer expects from a modern popcorn flesh ripper. We seem to have missed the hardcore action of the initial zombie apocalypse. Survivors are scarce and those still truly alive aren't looking for cures, other uninfected, or particularly strong, errr...strongholds. No, instead Zombieland is purely indulgent undead wish fulfillment that recklessly rocks out with gleeful abandon and little concern.
Looking over at the IMDB's trivia page, the film was meant to be entitled "Another Day in Zombieland" and in hindsight this would have made the perfect title. As you're watching, there's a distinct sense that this is indeed just another wild day living in a world infested with insane, bloodthirsty ebola/syphilis/fucked up shit maniacs. With even less reason to exist than Shaun, Zombieland basically acts as an excuse to set up hilarious hijinks at the expense of the end times. It's wafer thin, but everything tearing across the screen points to an acknowledgment of that, so one would have to be a dick to pile hate on such harmless fun. You also gotta love the extremely sly references to zombiedom peppered through. The funniest example being the fat, zombified patrons of the grocery store that hearken back to Dawn of the Dead's "This was an important place in their lives" line.
To its more serious credit, the story does prance on familiar serious zombie scenario topics such as the loss of loved ones, the new concept of love in a dead world, and the advantages of plundering celebrity homes. The cast is uniformly excellent for the otherwise lightweight material and act as the glue holding the roaming narrative together. One can imagine writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick had these characters quite formed being first created for the more expansive television market. Woody Harrelson is the fucking man so it's easy to accept him as a more hillbilly Mickey Knox without the media-slicked evil. The star cameo, which is probably known to everyone by now, borders on a joyous experience. It's so refreshing to see this particular actor ham it up after years of awards in higher art.
What's perhaps even more impressive is this film is an unabashed horror comedy and found success at the box office. Zombieland's positive reception both critically and financially proves the usually poisonous "horromedy" is still viable in the mainstream. A little redemption for all those splattery laughs that failed to spark outside of our obsessive community. Though, in a short time, like all genre offerings Zombieland will be carried off by us and have real potential for continual discovery by the just initiated and horror fan vets alike. Bring on the sequel, this one could go anywhere from here.