A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, and a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the Last Twinkie and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.
When Mad Cow Disease turned the world into flesh-eaters, there were very few humans left. “My friends, this is now the United States of Zombieland,” our young protagonist tells us. “It’s amazing how quickly things can go from bad to total shitstorm.”
We see exactly the storm of shit that he is referring to in the opening montage; a three-legged father and son sport’s day race shows one pair being chased by tethered zombies, a stripper with money-filled knickers and swinging nipple-tassels rapidly pursues her customers, a flaming zombie body from the ashes of a building chases the fireman who is saving him. There is no better way of describing it. This, my friends, is indeed a total shitstorm.
Columbus (Jess Einberg – who will soon create Facebook in Sorkin’s highly-anticipated The Social Network), one of the few remaining humans on the planet (although we only see America) is a curious hero. He plays a Michael Cera-type character with just the right amount of nervousness, geekiness and wit as, say, Michael Cera. He has survived because he has no friends and no close relatives. He has irritable bowel syndrome and has numerous phobias (department store Santas, being alone with a baby and clowns to mention a few). He stays in on weekends and plays World of Warcraft. He is probably a virgin. In fact, the first time he lets a girl into his life, she tried to eat him alive – which, coincidentally, is how he finds himself in this survival situation.
He lives his life by a set of rules, all of which become clear through the course of the movie. The first rule is cardio; the zombies killed the fatties off first. With all that meat you can see why, but they were also seemingly easy to catch up with. Other rules include double-tapping (killing a zombie twice to make sure they are really dead), being careful around bathrooms, checking the back-seat, wearing seatbelts, travelling light, etc. These rules have kept him alive and we a shown how with gore-revelling clarity.
Whilst attempting to get to Columbus (the characters in the film are named by their hometowns), he bumps into Tallahassee from…you get it. Tallahassee is a dangerous man. A man who’s car boot is filled with a cacophony of gardening and carpentry tools that double as zombie-killing devices, which Tallahassee excels at. He also likes smashing up things to vent his anger and twinkies. In one scene, before he heads into another killing-spree, he plays the banjo (and goddamn, he plays a mean banjo) to the tune of Deliverance before lopping heads off.
Columbus and Tallahassee play the odd-couple for a short while before they are met by Wichita and Little Rock, a older and younger sister con-team who take their car and weapons. They only have one rule; it’s just them and no-one else. A rule that has to be broken as the inevitable love story develops.
There are obvious parallels to Shaun of the Dead but only due to the fact that this is also a funny zombie film. That is really where the comparison ends. The casting is faultless; Woody Harrelson is seemingly at his best in road movies. There are brief flashes of Mickey Knox in his eyes, but he keeps the psychopath elements of his personality to a minimum – perhaps because he can vent his anger into endlessly antagonistic walking corpses.
The only downside was that it ended when it felt like it was only half way through. There are so many good things about this film; there are zombies, the character development is excellent, the action sequences are cleverly put together, the soundtrack is just right and the dialogue is sharp and full of great lines. There are genuine laugh-out-loud moments. The only way it could be funnier is if they went to Bill Murray’s mansion in Beverly Hills and encountered a Bill Murray zombie…hmm, imagine that.