You ever find yourself watching a TV show or movie and have a “what if” moment regarding it? That is kind of what happens every time I watch today’s movie. See, this movie had originally been written as a TV series so every time I watch it I wonder what it would have been like as a TV show. Would it be a group of people going from city to city, having crazy adventures, or would each episode focus on a different person and what they would do. Unfortunately, we will never know as the TV pilot never came about and was instead, rewritten into today’s movie. Still, I won’t complain because zombie movies will always be entertaining. So let’s have some fun with today’s movie, Zombieland.
The plot: Two months ago, someone ate a burger infected with a mutated strain of mad cow’s disease, with the end result being that the person became a zombie. The virus quickly spread until there are very few people left alive in the country. A college student from Austin, TX is making his way towards Columbus, OH to see if his parents are still alive but as he stops at a gas station to use the restroom, he is attacked by some zombies. He manages to get away from them and back in his car but a zombie is in the back seat and tries to bite him and the student ends up crashing his car in an attempt to kill it. As he is walking along the highway, he sees a car speeding towards him and takes cover as it stops close to him. When the driver gets out and points his gun at the student, a brief stand off occurs before the student holds his thumb out and the driver motions him to get in the car. As the student gets in the car, he thanks the driver and asks his name but the driver chooses not to get too attached to other people. Deciding to refer to each other by their destinations, the student, Columbus, and the driver, Tallahassee, head out, with Tallahassee saying he will take him as far as Texarkana, stopping to look for Twinkies any chance he gets. While taking a break, Columbus thinks back to how he wound up in his current situation. A few days ago, he was at his apartment playing World of Warcraft when the girl from apartment 406 starts pounding on his door, asking for help. He lets her in and she starts telling him about how she was attacked by a homeless person but managed to get away. 406 ends up falling asleep on the couch next to him and he falls asleep as well but when he wakes up, he finds that she has turned and attempts to kill him but he is forced to kill her. Back in the present, Tallahassee stops at a grocery store to go looking for Twinkies and after killing the zombies inside, they encounter a young woman, who asks them to come with her. As Tallahassee follows her to the back, Columbus stops to make sure they have a way out, then follows after them. In the back, Tallahassee introduces him to the woman, Wichita, and her younger sister Little Rock. Wichita says that her sister was bitten and as they discuss what to do, Little Rock says that they should just shoot her. Columbus can’t do it so Tallahassee goes to do it but Wichita tells him to let her do it but when he hands her Columbus’s gun, she turns it on him, revealing that they were pulling a con on them. The girls take their weapons and Tallahassee’s Escalade and drive off, leaving Columbus and Tallahassee to fend for themselves. As the two walk through the town, they find an Hummer H2 with a bag full of weapons in the back and Tallahassee decides to go after the girls. They spot the Escalade seemingly abandoned and Tallahassee goes ahead to check it out but when he signals Columbus to join him, he discovers that Little Rock had surprised him. Wichita joins them in the H2 and they start driving when Tallahassee gets his gun back form Little Rock. A stand off occurs but Columbus breaks it up, saying that they have better things to do than try to kill each other with zombies all around them and Tallahassee and Wichita call a truce. As they continue driving along, Columbus finds himself attracted to Wichita and asks where they are going. Wichita tells him they are heading to Pacific Playland in Los Angeles. When he asks if she has heard anything about Columbus, Wichita tells him that Columbus is wiped out and Tallahassee motions to her and she realizes that his family was there and she apologizes. They keep driving and start bonding with each other and end up letting off some steam by destroying a gift shop at an Arizona rest stop. When they reach Los Angeles, Tallahassee decides that they should crash at Bill Murray’s mansion and they head there. As they split up to search the place, Tallahassee and Wichita encounter Bill Murray, who is disguised as a zombie so he can wander around town without being attacked. After hanging out with Bill Murray for a bit, they decide to have him play a joke on Columbus and Little Rock, who had found Bill’s theater room and were watching Ghostbusters. Bill walks in, pretending to be a zombie, and Columbus shoots him, then apologizes when he realizes that Bill wasn’t a zombie. After holding a funeral for Bill Murray, the 4 settle in for the night playing games. As they are playing, they are talking about everything and Columbus realizes that the puppy Tallahassee had said the zombies killed was actually his son. Later in the night, Tallahassee starts bonding with Little Rock while teaching her how to shoot and Columbus and Wichita end up drinking and talking together. When Wichita asks Columbus to dance with her and, starting to feel attracted to him, she is about to kiss him when Tallahassee interrupts them. Chastising herself for allowing herself to get close to him, Wichita decides to leave with Little Rock in the morning and head to Pacific Playland. When they get there, Wichita turns on all of the power for the lights and rides so they can enjoy themselves but they unknowingly attract all of the zombies in the area. Meanwhile, Columbus wants to go after Wichita and convinces Tallahassee, who wants to go to Mexico, to go with him. At the amusement park, Wichita and Little Rock see the horde of zombies approaching them and attempt to escape but when the zombies swarm the H2, they are forced to drive it off the pier and into the ocean, jumping out before it hits. The two make their way to the drop tower ride and take the lift up but as it starts to drop down, Little Rock shoots the control box so that they can stay out of the zombie’s reach. Tallahassee and Columbus arrive and when they see the girls’ predicament, Tallahassee causes a distraction to lure the zombies away, using the rides to help him as he kills zombies. He eventually heads into a shooting gallery and, after sealing it off, begins killing all of the zombies as they swarm the structure. Columbus is chased by some of the stragglers and heads into the haunted house, killing some of them inside while another ride takes out the rest. When he reaches the drop tower, he comes face to face with a clown zombie, forcing him to confront his fear of clowns in order to save them. After killing the clown zombie, Columbus uses the emergency brake to bring the lift down and he helps them out of the ride. Wichita hugs him and then whispers her real name, Krista, in his ear and the two kiss. The three then go looking for Tallahassee and Columbus finds him in a shop that sells deep fried Twinkies looking for the pastry. When Columbus hears a noise coming from the storage room, he fires into it only to discover it was some rats moving around and his shot had destroyed the box of Twinkies. Hearing their car starting up, the two run outside to see it starting to drive away and they think that the girls conned them again, but the car stops and Little Rock throws a Twinkie to Tallahassee, who happily eats it and the group leave the amusement park.
Zombieland met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead.” As of 2017, all 4 lead actors have been nominated for Academy Awards in other movies, with Emma Stone being the only one to win an Oscar for her performance in La La Land. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $102.4 million off of a $23.6 million budget and was the top grossing zombie movie in the U.S. until World War Z came out. Due to the movie’s success, a sequel had been considered for years and the writers confirmed in 2017 that the script is finished and they are shooting for a tentative release date of October 2019, with all 4 main cast members returning for the sequel.
This is a fantastic movie and a lot of fun to watch. The acting was great, with Woody Harrelson stealing the show as Tallahassee. Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Emma Stone (Wichita), and Abigail Breslin (Little Rock) were also good in their roles and the chemistry between all 4 of them really helped get you invested in their characters. I loved the Bill Murray cameo and thought that it was a great interlude from the rest of the movie. The story was pretty good and one thing I did like as they didn’t focus on how the zombies came about, just dove right into the fact that zombies were around and took it from there (yes, they did say what caused the zombies but it wasn’t a major plot issue). I did like how Columbus’s rules would pop up every now and then throughout the movie, as well as the “Zombie Kill of the Week”, which was something from the original TV show script but carried over into the movie. The special effects with the zombies were pretty good while the humor was spaced out really well, not being continuous like in Shaun Of The Dead, but keeping things light-hearted enough so that it wasn’t a total horror movie. Definitely a great movie and one well worth seeing.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5