Sunday, October 4, 2009


ZOMBIE MOVIE SURVIVAL TIP: No sarcastic zombie survival tips from a masked film geek can top the sarcastic zombie survival tips of a virgin WoW-playing nerd.


The Dead People vs. Larry Flynt; Deceased Roger Dodger; Little Miss Dawn of the Dead; Superbad Zombie Killstress; the disappointing absence of George Wendt; and possibly the greatest zombie movie cameo since the deaf Amish guy.

More details here.


Geeky teen Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has managed to survive the apocalypse of the undead that has laid waste to the world. Creating a valuable list of survival tips gleaned from video games, internet searches, and Mountain Dew-fueled common sense, Columbus ventures out in the world he’s only viewed from the window of his loser loner apartment, a world now infested with the ravenous undead. But despite his plucky lucky streak avoiding becoming a zombie’s stringy morsel, Columbus is desperately lonely. After a series of encounters with zombies that demonstrate his helpful list, he runs into Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a fearless and irritating yahoo with a vicious and multi-faceted talent of dispatching zombies. The pair hit the road, Columbus in search of his parents and Tallahassee in search of an elusive Twinkie. They eventually run into trouble-making sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and youngster Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) who steal their truck and weapons, laughing their way towards the West Coast where they believe lies a zombie-free haven on the grounds of amusement park Pacific Playland. The guys and the gals then play a cat-and-mouse game on the eerily deserted highways of the Undead States of America, but despite their trust issues the sisters allow Columbus and Tallahassee to ride along with them in search of elusive safety. Along the way Columbus’ survival tips are tested, zombies are wildly and gorily trounced by Tallahassee, Columbus and Wichita get sweet on one another, Little Rock learns to cope in a Hannah Montana-less land, and this small band of survivors learns to bond and rely on each other. When they finally make it to California, they share an encounter that will not be spoiled here because of its complete HILARITY, but suffice to say that more than just salvation, make-out sessions, and 80s movies await them on the rollercoasters, thrill rides, and spookhouses of Zombieland.


Film historian Thomas Schatz formulated a series of stages that film genres undergo over time, practice, and distribution. Although Schatz’s theory has rigorously been analyzed and deconstructed over the years, I use them to illustrate a point about where we are in terms of the evolution of the zombie movie. The first stage is the “classical period” where the groundwork and “rules” are laid out for the genre (Night of the Living Dead). The next stage is “refinement” where the rules are test and often broken to allow the genre to evolve (Return of the Living Dead). And lastly there is the “baroque” or “generic hybridization” period in which genre practitioners self-consciously parody the genre or combine it with elements of other genres. With the zombie-comedy-parody Zombieland, I firmly believe we are now in the late stages of the zombie baroque period which I predict the genre will be unable to recover for a long time. Zombies are now funny-scary, like the dopey horror clown or a ridiculous SyFy Original CGI monster, and are no longer scary-scary. For me, the essence of horror at the heart of the zombie genre – like the apocalyptic thriller – is the breakdown of civilization, the loss of common rationality and sense of community (which often feels like it’s hanging by thread anyway), and the idea that the living are far more terrifying than anything the undead can conjure. The other source of pure horror is the conceit of the dead have coming back to life, a concept that strikes at the very core of Judeo-Christian beliefs that threaten to unravel thousands of years of indoctrination. That said, Zombieland, a hysterical comedy that tears the horror away from the genre like a rampaging zombie, may very well mark the end of zombie horror, but not zombie comedy. Taking its cue from 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland revels in frenzied and gory slapstick against a backdrop of a romantic comedy with a sensitive theme of family and trust at its center. The movie amiably balances gore and slapstick with a fast-pace and hilarious turn by Woody Harrelson who could easily shape up to become the next Bruce Campbell if such a thing could even be conceived. Fortunately, the movie does not get complicated by the generic traps of the genre and tempting homages and references to prior works. Here, the focus is on the characters and their adventure together to an imaginary freedom from a globe of goopy ghouls. Zombieland is quality popcorn-munching entertainment, another landmark in the zombie genre which I can only hope will be scary again.

1 comment:

SadSack_Sasquatch said...

But zombie movies always had a element of comedy. Look at the original DoD - the pie fight scene in the mall. How do you account for this undercurrent of comendy?