Zombieland

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin. Directed by Ruben Fleischer.
Rated MA 15+ (strong horror violence). 88 mins. 

At least you know where you stand (or sit) by the title!  You are in Zombieland US, where a virus has infiltrated the majority of the population who are now the equivalent of George A Romero's Living Dead, preying on the living and devouring them if they can (though they can run fast, chasing the living, rather than lurch as they do in Romero's films – which, it seems, is why the fat people are the first to be caught and eaten!).

Of course, not everyone wants to see zombie films whether they are serious or funny.  This one is funny.  There have been some scary movie spoofs but they tend to be a bit along the scratch concert line, hit and miss jokes – and sometimes aiming at the lowest common denominator.

Zombieland is much more cleverly written.  It parallels and parodies the living dead conventions but has a lot of wisecracks, especially with movie references, so that there are frequent smiles and laughs.

With the bigger budget than the cheap parodies, the sets are more impressive, especially the climax at a fun park where the cast go on a literal rollercoaster to escape the zombies.  And the cast is very good.  Jesse Eisenberg gives yet another variation (no, that is too strong a description because he is much the same every time) on his wimpish, dorkish persona which he does so well.  He speaks the voiceover narration and his delivery and timing are just right in describing what has happened to the world, how he ticks as a phobia-ridden young man (whose first encounter with a girl finished up with her being a zombie and attacking him) and his list of rules for dealing with zombies.

When he encounters a redneck human (Woody Harrelson at his manic best, shooting zombies but weeping for the loss of his dog - to the accompaniment of Paul Anka singing Puppy Love), there is a standoff but they decide to take the road together.  Then they encounter two sisters (Emma Stone and, of all serious young actors, Abigail Breslin) who are not all they seem.  It is as if the four of them are in a zombie re-make of I Am Legend.

The foursome, each with a particular eccentricity that makes for humorous interactions, arrive in LA and decide to settle in the mansion belonging to Bill Murray who is at home and gives one of his fine comic performances, sending up Ghostbusters and expressing, when asked, his movie regrets: Garfield!

Given the number of slasher movies, living dead and other horror films, it is good to have one that takes the genres seriously enough to parody them so well.

Sony Out December 3

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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