Zombieland is a cool little film, most noteworthy for hitting cinema screens on the tail-end of the great zombie craze of the 2000s. I like to think of it as an exclamation point capping off that whole demented era, before pop culture’s collective zombie fetishism finally started to inch back from its rabid peak, to be partially eclipsed by the ongoing surge of interest in supernatural romance spurred by the Twilight phenomenon. After years of pulse-pounding gore-flicks and tense horror, and interminable water-cooler debate and analysis, the makers of Zombieland pluckily decided to steer the current social obsession with the flesh-eating living-dead into something weird and fun and diverting, with engaging characters and an irrepressible energy that you can’t help but chuckle at.
Zombieland was initially intended to be a TV show, and it shows. It comes across like the extended pilot for a horror comedy, setting up a regular cast of oddballs, hinting at further details to be unveiled of its madcap world, and ending on a hopeful note implying many future adventures that are yet to come (though the follow-up TV show is supposedly on its way at last, in time to compete with The Walking Dead from the other end of the Seriousness Spectrum). It’s no masterpiece, no definitive final statement on a worn-out genre. It’s just a slick blast of silver-screen hijinks, with a memorable quartet of Woody Harrelson’s outlandish, all-American zombie-killer, Jesse Eisenburg’s oddly likeable hero-nerd, Emma “The New Hotness” Stone’s ultra-charismatic, totally non-disposable love interest, and Abigail Breslin as Stone’s precocious younger sister and partner in crime.
The zombie apocalypse setting is barely taken seriously; the titular loping ghouls, while as bloody and grisly as any other incarnation in the genre, are either absent or easily swatted for significant stretches of the running time. The old staples of creeping dread, breathless fear, characters being killed off one by one with shocking sticky finality; all thrown out in favour of daft scenarios, zombie-killing as a fun sport, and a rather self-indulgent cameo that sprawls lavishly across the half-way mark.
After so much doom and gloom, as a wretched decade sputtered out in the unyielding jaws of long-term recession, some light-hearted mocking of all the po-faced cinematic tragedy porn to come out of the zombie genre was in order. For providing it with such aplomb, Zombieland should always have a special place in our hearts.