Though I enjoy most types of horror movies, it’s taken me a little while to get into the whole zombie thing. Sure, I’ve seen films like 28 Days Later, and a few episodes of The Walking Dead, but when it comes to scaring my pants off, those aren’t typically the kinds of stories I gravitate towards.
While I’m not exactly sure why this is, I think part of the problem is that I just don’t find them to be that scary. True, there is usually a lot of blood and guts and brain eating, but the plot lines often oscillate between blitz zombie attacks and long dour looks between the human survivors. This makes sense, considering the whole end-of-the-world/humanity aspect, but it doesn’t really make for the most exciting story.
Zom-coms (zombie comedies), on the other hand, are much more my speed. The humor breaks up some of the seriousness that plagues other zombie films, and more often than not, they focus on the relationships among the survivors instead of the zombies themselves.
One such movie that I recently fell in love with is 2009’s Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Emma Stone (Wichita), and Abigail Breslin (Little Rock). Yes, it features tried and true zombie/horror movie tropes – such as beware of bathrooms and check the back seat – but by presenting them as rules of survival that pop up on screen at relevant moments, such as when nature calls, the director seems to be letting us know that he’s in on the joke.
The same thing is true of Tallahassee’s continued attempts to find Hostess Twinkies, which popular culture has taught us will – along with cockroaches – be the only thing to survive the apocalypse.
But while running from the zombie hordes is what brings all of these characters together, the film highlights the little things they do to stay human, from hunting for Twinkies to watching Ghostbusters in Bill Murray’s mansion to going to the fictional Pacific Playland. Or as Columbus notes, Rule #32: Enjoy[ing] the little things.
Yet it was this last part of the quest – going to the amusement park – that gave me the most trouble. With Wichita having told Columbus that she would “do anything to survive,” I just couldn’t understand her decision to turn on all of the lights and rides at the park, as well as her and Little Rock’s surprise that the noise attracted a whole slew of zombies. I guess it was needed to set up the film’s climax, but still. I would have thought two con-women would have been smarter than that.
Though the characters may have made some questionable decisions along the way, Zombieland really is a delightful romp. It glories in satirizing the zombie genre, much like 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, and it seems like everyone involved is just having a really good time with it. That amusement is infectious (a good kind of contagion), and it makes the ride through the United States of Zombieland one that you’ll want to take again.