Saturday, October 3, 2009

Movie Review - Zombieland

I've exercised a considerable amount of caution in this review, and I don't think there are any spoilers that could diminish your enjoyment in the least. But if you're one of those, 'don't tell me anything!' spoiler-paranoid people, just skip this one and come back Wednesday night.

No, you have not come to the wrong site. Your RSS feed thingy is working just fine. I have not been replaced by Siskel & Ebert (one of whom is dead now, which works because I'm reviewing a zombie movie). It's just that I went and saw Zombieland this weekend, and it's so spectacular that I just had to gush like a severed limb. Here's how I figure it:

1. You come here at all, so you've gotta be at least part nerd.
2. A good number of you will be fans of horror films. Because, you know, nerds.
3. There are countless zombie games out there, from RPGs and CCGs and CMGs to BVDs and MP3s and DMVs (those last three, incidentally, are not actually types of games. They are, respectively, types of undergarments, types of music files and types of places where people work when God hates them.)

So there's a real good chance that Zombieland is your kind of movie, unless you're one of those soulless kinds of nerds who tell people incessantly about your Mensa membership and refuse to play any game that's not a complete abstract made out of painted pieces of wood.

(Quick joke [which I am in danger of running into the ground because I find it so amusing]: How can you tell if you're talking to a Mensa member? He'll tell you.)

Before I start, you should know that I love zombie movies. I've seen an awful lot of them - every Romero zombie movie, of course, but also the 28 Days/Weeks movies, Shawn of the Dead, and a bunch of others besides. They're usually not very good, because for some reason, zombie movies just don't get a lot of respect (it might be the disgusting, excessive gore). But I love 'em anyway, with the possible exception of Diary of the Dead, which I found to be preachy and dull. I love the zombie apocalypse scenario, where the nation is overrun with mad killers, and you have to subscribe to a few basic rules to survive (one of which is that you must be very, very lucky).

So Zombieland, for me, was a no-brainer (get it? no-brainer?). In fact, it was important enough that I went to the movies to see it - on opening weekend, no less. I despise theaters, and I hate opening weekend. I came within inches of beating the unholy bejeezus out of a cripple when I went to see Grindhouse, and ever since, I'm hesitant to return to the theater. It's like every stupid person alive wants to come out, just so they can answer their cell phones and talk during the quiet parts.

But I fear I was the obnoxious bastard in Zombieland, because the first time a woman crashed her car, shot through the windshield, and smashed her face to a bloody pulp on the pavement, I cried out, 'Outstanding!' And then I was laughing so hard through the entire movie, and yelling stuff like, 'Hell yes!' and 'Oh, damn!' and at one point, 'Oh my God! It's Bill Murray!'

In case you haven't been following Zombieland with the same fervor that I have, the idea is that, following a worldwide zombie apocalypse, a phobic nerd meets up with a borderline psychotic cowboy. These two cats make the most hilarious odd couple ever - the goofball nearly missed the entire zombie thing because he was playing World of Warcraft, and the good ol' boy is the best zombie killer alive (which he proves multiple times throughout the film). The dork isn't really that familiar to me, but the bad-ass hick is played perfectly by Woody Harrelson.

The two travelers meet up with a couple sisters, hard-nosed grifters who do a pretty darn good job of looking out for each other. As with nearly any story worth telling, there's a developing romance, and despite being constantly on the run from flesh-eating zombies, they find time to laugh, joke, squabble and otherwise actually seem like real people, as opposed to Romero movies, where everyone needs a case of Zanex, because the zombie apocalypse destroyed all the happy people and left only the extremely depressed.

There are three things happening in Zombieland that wouldn't seem to go together, but they work like a well-oiled machine. First there's the horrific gore. Whew, there's a lot of gross in this movie. You know, zombies eating people, but even more than the standard stringy-body-parts-in-the-teeth kind of nasty you see in most zombie flicks. But the thing is, it's mostly believable gore, especially if you've ever seen what actually happens to people when they get badly hurt.

The second element that makes Zombieland a success is the humor. And this isn't 'alleviate the tension' humor, or humor designed to lessen the impact of the violence. This humor is powered by the violence. In fact, it's often hilarious bloodshed, with the audience laughing uproariously at some of the most disturbingly graphic deaths ever recorded on film.

The third element, and the piece that takes Zombieland from 'funny zombie movie' to 'absolutely brilliant' is the character interaction. The dialog is touching, sad, powerful, or poignant - but almost always damned funny. It's not slapstick funny. It's not cheap gag funny. This isn't sitcom writing, or even Judd Apatow 'oh, gross, I can't believe that's in a movie' low humor. This is often funny because you can see how, if you were in their shoes, you would say the same thing - and it would be funny and sad at the same time.

I am not going to ruin the brilliance of Zombieland by giving examples or describing any of the more hilarious scenes. In fact, I'm not even going to spill any more of the plot - and there is definitely more. What I will tell you is that if you have ever enjoyed a zombie movie on any level, you will love Zombieland. If you've never seen a zombie movie, you might very well still enjoy Zombieland. It's not just funny, and it's not just a zombie movie. It's smart, deep, and believable, and manages to let you laugh out loud at some terrifically sad scenarios and not feel the least bit guilty.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about Zombieland is not the humor, or the fantastic action sequences, or the witty banter. The most remarkable thing is that it's so very human.


Matt Drake said...

It's completely different. Shaun of the Dead is a parody. It uses zombies to hold up a mirror to humanity. This is not. This is more like a road trip character study with zombies. It's incredibly brilliant, and the best writing I've ever seen in a zombie movie. Hell, it's some of the best writing you'll see in a movie, period.

And I knew about the surprise guest before I saw the movie. It didn't affect my enjoyment in the least, and certainly didn't ruin the surprises the film had in store.

Enrique said...

Jimmy said what?!?

ninthdoc said...

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care.

Matt Drake said...

Jimmy said, 'Worthless spam. Delete me.'

Happy to oblige, Jimmy. Thanks for stopping by, douchebag.

ninthdoc said...

Dammit, Drake! I was having fun w/my Jimmy! Right here on your blog! :D

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great movie to me, thanks for the review. And I got to hang with Woody a few years back down here in Costa Rica, he is way cool, very fun to hang out with.


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