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Exquisite corpses
by Syd M
October 15, 2009 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Zombies are right up there with vampires as the most enduring, most charismatic of monsters. Not charismatic, you say? Sure, vampires bring the sexy, while zombies are pretty messy eaters and lousy conversationalists. But still, you gotta love the zombies. They're kinda like babies: big, dumb, hungry, sloppy toddlers with a taste for human flesh.

Now back in the day, zombies used to be slow and relentless. They'd moan about "braaaaaaainnnnnns" and stagger after their victims, who pretty much had to do something stupid like fall down or stand next to a window to get eaten and subsequently zombified. Nowadays, like so much else in the world, zombies move fast. When did that start? 28 Days Later..., maybe. The zombies in Zombieland move fast, but they're still pretty stupid - which makes them hard to outrun, but easy to outwit. And since Zombieland, like any zombie movie, is premised on the notion that humanity is basically little better than zombies in the intellect department, the world is overrun with zombies pretty quickly.

And so, as Zombieland begins, there's one guy who hails from Columbus, Ohio who might just be the last non-zombie on Earth - except that he isn't. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) soon meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) on a lonesome highway strewn with half-eaten corpses and overturned cars. Tallahassee has a big truck and lots of weapons and a serious jones for Twinkies, which everybody knows is the foodstuff of the apocalypse. Columbus is, by his own admission, a big, neurotic ball of fear; but he's smart, and has devised an extensive set of rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse. Said rules are explained in detail and helpfully flashed onscreen for your pre-apocalypse edification. Tallahassee, on the other hand, is just really, really good at killing zombies - and killing zombies is something he really, really likes to do, because he really, really hates zombies.

Columbus and Tallahassee mix like oil and water. Columbus is a nervous, chatty little guy who makes wry observations; Tallahassee speaks little and carries a big bat (just in case he sees any zombies that need killin'). There are complications when they encounter Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and her big sister Wichita (Emma Stone); but the foursome, thrown together by chance, head off in search of a California theme park rumored to be completely free of the undead. (I know what you're thinking: Since when is California zombie-free?) They also cruise through Beverly Hills, where all those movie-star mansions are sitting there vacant. 'Tis there that they meet a non-zombie Bill Murray.

Columbus, who has never had any luck with the ladies, has to think that his odds have improved, since he's practically the last man on Earth. So he tries his luck with Wichita, thus injecting a mildly diverting little-nerd-meets-cool-girl romance in between the zombie carnage. The rest of the movie is snappy, snarky banter peppered with lively undead action.

Zombieland is a horror/comedy/road-trip movie that's light on horror and heavy on the comedy. It's chatty, goofy, dark; and it's pretty darn hilarious. Most zombie movies are not played for laughs, of course, because zombies are no laughing matter (at least when they're trying to gnaw your limbs off). These zombies are no exception: not funny at all. But killing zombies - well that's something else altogether. The undead are dispatched (can the already expired be re-killed?) in a variety of bloody good ways in Zombieland, with instruments of destruction as varied as machineguns, a toilet and a banjo. And Bill Murray is so funny that you could die laughing.

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