It wouldn’t seem like a terribly natural collaboration, but horror and comedy have gone hand in hand for years. And I don’t mean horror spoofs like the Scary Movie clunkers either, I mean movies that are genuinely funny, but still have legitimate elements of creepyness to them at the same time: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Ghostbusters. Shaun of the Dead. And now, we’ve got a new movie to add to that pantheon: Zombieland.
This new zombie flick, in theaters now, features Jesse Eisenberg as a 20-something who has survived the zombie apocalypse by crafting a set of survival rules — things like “always look in the back seat” and “cardio” being surprising, but as it proves, life-saving inclusions. After wandering for some time, hoping to make it to Columbus to seek out his parents, he encounters another roaming, Twinkie-loving survivor, played by Woody Harrelson. The two form an unusual friendship that gets even more unusual when they encounter a duo of sister con artists (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) with a plan: make their way to an amusement park where, rumor has it, mankind has established a beachhead against the undead.
This movie is a big more on the Ghostbusters side of the spectrum and the Shaun side, but I mean that as a compliment. The horror elements are ever-present, but aside from a couple of “sudden jump” moments (mostly earlier in the film) there’s little that’s actually scary. There is, however, a lot of comedy, and like the previous movies I’ve mentioned, the laughs aren’t cheap slapstick gags. The zombies themselves are played seriously, but the four characters and how they relate to the dead — and each other — provide a lot of fodder for comedy. Eisenberg and Harrelson have an unexpected but undeniable chemistry. There’s absolutely no reason for these two men to become friends, except that they may be some of the last people in the world. Somehow, that’s enough.
There are a lot of great bits in this film. The aforementioned “rules” come back over and over again as we see them demonstrated, and the tension between the guys and the sisters works very well. We also get one of the absolute funniest surprise cameos I’ve seen in a movie in years, and a final action scene at the amusement park that may not be scary, but kicks some major butt.
I liked the trailers for this movie, so I had a good attitude going into it. I didn’t at all expect to love it the way that I did. Surprisingly, this has vaulted onto my list of favorite films of the year. Zombie fans, and fans of the horror-comedy synthesis — get to the theater and check this one out. It’s worth it.