"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_zombielandMan, ZOMBIELAND was just begging for me to hate it. You know how picky I am about the balance between horror and comedy. And who the fuck makes a zombie comedy now? It feels exactly like that moment when somebody’s dad makes a reference to their favorite band from three grades ago, like he’s just catching on but he thinks he’s on the cutting edge. I was already sick of people talking about zombie movies back when SHAUN OF THE DEAD came out, and to be frankly honest even that one I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about.

I would’ve been even more skeptical if I had read up on it before seeing it, because I would’ve known it was written originally as a TV show by reality show producers trying to cash in on the “fast zombie” love during that couple weeks after the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake came out. It’s two writers and one of them says he’d only seen a couple zombie movies before (didn’t specify which ones), the other one had only seen SHAUN OF THE DEAD. And the director isn’t big on them either and had only done commercials before.

Plus the title is kind of cheesy, I don’t know why, I just don’t like it.

And not just that! The main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a numbered list of rules he always talks about, just like I hated in TRANSPORTER. And these ones are cuter because they appear as text on the screen whenever they’re mentioned.

But you know what, I have some rules of my own, tenets I believe in, and one is that Woody Harrelson is always pretty good, even when he’s in crap. Plus the projector was broken for the movie I came to see, so I switched my ticket for this one.

mp_zombielandAnd I’ll be damned, I actually enjoyed it. Eisenberg (from ADVENTURELAND and SQUID AND THE WHALELAND) plays the neurotic nerd and narrator who shares the aforementioned rules to explain how being a socially inept dork has kept him alive so far during the zombie apocalypse. For some reason I enjoyed them, including some of the gimmicks where, say, somebody pulls a muscle and the previously mentioned rule “Limber up” floats by in the background. Or when you notice he has new, higher numbered rules inspired by mistakes he’s made since starting to tell us these rules.

One day traveling through the vehicle graveyard of the interstate Columbus runs into Tallahassee (Harrelson), who has survived because he’s a badass and has an Escalade with a bulldozer attachment on the front. They decide to stick together for a while and then they meet two sisters, Emma Stone and Amber Breslin, and that’s just about it for the non-zombie cast of the movie.

There’s some decent zombie mayhem. The opening credits are a Zack Snyder-esque montage of super-slo-mo ghoul attacks. My favorite is the little girls from a birthday party hanging on the back of mom’s Beanie-Baby-filled minivan. It gets gorey and vicious at times. The first time Columbus has a girl in his apartment he offers her Teddy Grahams and soon after has to hit her twice in the head with a toilet lid. Also there’s some good amusement park ride vs. zombie action. I always figured in case of zombie apocalypse I’d head for an amusement park island somewhere. These guys didn’t do an island but they figured out what never occurred to me – that rides have alot of potential for killing the undead. Spinning around firing machine guns in crowds, landing on top of them, catapulting them.

But if that’s all it was it wouldn’t be that good of a movie. The good thing is it’s more about the characters and surviving in a dead world than it is about zombies. And it’s kind of an odd couple road movie. Harrelson and Eisenberg are funny opposites traveling together in a postapocalyptic world where you don’t see living people very often and even a scrawny geek knows all about blowing heads off. The best part of zombie movies since DAWN OF THE DEAD (original) has always been the scavenging, and this movie knows that. You gotta appreciate Harrelson’s excitement at seeing the Hostess logo on an abandoned truck. I mean, that really would be a fuckin jackpot in this world. Also, the Hummer full of assault rifles that makes him say “Thank the Lord for rednecks!”

So the people who made it apparently aren’t horror fans, but it doesn’t matter because they seem to get it. We don’t need a bunch of homages to other movies anyway. The smartest move I think (one that even the horror initiated tend to get wrong) is not explaining the zombies, or how it began, or trying to find a cure. There are a few flashbacks to show how the characters first encountered zombies, but the movie begins and ends in a world gone to shit, just like DAWN OF THE DEAD (still original). And despite goofy situations the zombie stuff is treated straight, moreso than SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It’s definitely a comedy, but in a credible horror world, almost like this could be happening somewhere else during DAWN OF THE DEAD (remake this time). One exception is the Looney Tunes way some lady offs a ghoul in the “Zombie Kill of the Week” gag that was in the trailer. I didn’t like that, but I was impressed when I learned the TV show version really would’ve had a ZKOTW each episode. For that it would’ve made sense.

It’s probly too late for this, but if you plan to see the movie you better avoid all further reviews, articles, and wiseguys. There’s a not-crucial-but-very-enjoyable aspect to the movie that most reviewers have been shamefully spoiling by pretending that if they give away the basics but not the specifics there’s some kind of a loophole where it doesn’t count as carelessly taking away somebody’s enjoyment of it. I managed to miss those reviews but had it spoiled by somebody complaining about the reviews. I won’t say anymore, just be careful. And close those loopholes, writers.

There are alot of great zombie movies. Obviously the first three Romero ones are some of my favorite movies of any genre, nothing unusual about that (okay, the third one is more controversial, but still). RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is also a masterpiece in my mind. LAND OF THE DEAD I enjoy, and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake is fun. Fulci’s ZOMBIE is pretty cool. And the “Thriller” video of course. And there are other ones that might qualify.

As a movie nerd in your 20s or whatever it is natural and beautiful to be drawn to these movies. But just be quiet about it though, okay fella? We get it. We all get it. It’s like a samurai doesn’t need to make a promise, because it goes without saying that he will keep his word.  Or like a dog doesn’t have to say he sniffs butts. A movie nerd doesn’t need to say that he likes zombie movies. It’s a given.

These movies are great, so I don’t blame young upcoming filmatists for wanting to pay tribute to them ten years ago. Unfortunately, about 250 people got the idea at the same time. Now we’re done with that, we’ve been done for a long time. Zombie movies don’t need a reinvention – Romero reinvented them so well nobody remembers the “re” and just figures he invented it. I don’t buy that anybody is gonna come up with a better take than him, or do it as well as him. A few years ago I said everybody had to stop making zombie movies except Romero, and then even he violated my trust with DIARY OF THE DEAD. It’s too late to stop him, he already has another one finished, so we’ll see if he earns his priveleges back or not. And I’ll give a provisional license to that one Zack Snyder is supposed to produce where a team of mercenaries goes into a walled off zombie Las Vegas to rob a casino. That sounds like a good one. But for everybody else zombies is a no-fly zone for a 10 year probationary period. And that could very well get extended. Most likely will.

ZOMBIELAND beat the odds. It’s a fun movie, much better than I expected, and that’s always nice. Especially in a case like this, where it is the very last zombie comedy that will be made. It’s cool that the final time that this topic is covered was a good one. The whole “funny zombies” thing goes out on a high note, and we can all look back on it fondly, instead of grumbling about how lame it is that motherfuckers still think they should keep coming up with new ideas for zombie movies. The status quo is never restored in Zombieland, but it’s still a happy ending.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009 at 6:34 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

72 Responses to “Zombieland”

  1. God I wish your last few sentences weren’t ironic. Also, brooding vampires that in some cases don’t adhere to vampire traits can take a break too.

  2. Yup – I completely loved it. Really didn’t expect to. Woody is so good in this movie. It’s heart is in the right place and the characters all work.

    Vern is spot on about spoiler reviews. I’m so glad I didn’t read any because the bit he’s referring to is so wonderful. I mean – the set up, delivery and pay off of it is so audacious and perfect.

    I agree that this film succeeds perhaps because, not in spite, of the filmatists not being horror nerds. They don’t get bogged down in referential wankery – they focus on their fun, fleshed out characters – all with understandable and very human desires – and throw all sorts of crazy ideas (not just genre conventions and cliches) at them.

    It’s great and I’m going to try and take some folks to see it this week.

  3. I didn’t even know the surprise was supposed to be a surprise. It was in IMDB months before the movie even came out, and not even as a spoiler, just as part of the general info.

  4. Not to mention that the people who made the movie openly talked about “the surprise” in every interview they gave! The only surprise is that it wasn’t in the trailer!

  5. Good point about the scavenging being one of the best parts of these kind of films Vern, I’m not sure why but there’s something entertaining and satisfying about watching someone trawl through a post apoc. world scavenging for food or weaponry or whatever. Perhaps it’s weirdly materialistic and comforting, satisfying to watch someone in a world of no posessions gain something as their own. Or building a whole home like in DotD (original).

    It’s why I can forgive I Am Legend partially, the first half of the film is such a great post apocolyptic/last man alive just going about his daily life trying to survive, get food, do some exercise, pretend to go shopping etc.

  6. Saw it today and loved it. Yeah, it’s great that it’s their zombie movie, and not a homage. They also take advantage of the fact that the audience pretty much already knows the zombie genre pretty well and don’t try to milk things for suspense or pace it out. Your dropped right into the thick of it with little setup and it just keeps boom-boom-booming along in a tight well-made package. And yes, that thing that people keeps spoiling was awesome.
    Seconded on giving zombies a rest for a while. And Vampires (after DAYBREAKERS comes out, I quite like the look of that).

  7. I went in knowing next to nothing about it, just feeling that I would be content if I saw Woody Harrelson kill some Zombies with unusual objects. Needless to say, I walked out singing this movie’s praises to anyone who would listen (in a non-spoilery fashion, of course).

    Honestly would hardly touch a single frame in there. I even liked Jesse Eisenberg despite the fact that he’s actually Michael Cera wearing the skin of a slightly more generic-looking youth actor. How the fuck are you going to overcome those odds to win me over? That’s an impressive feat. Bravo, ZOMBIELAND.

  8. This movie is getting a strange reaction. All of us who might be predisposed to like it were turned off by the idea for some reason, but then we ended up liking it anyway. It’s the kind of thing where if they make a sequel (which they will) it’ll end up suffering a backlash because this time we’ll expect it to be good instead of being pleasantly surprised that it didn’t suck.

  9. I’m sure this is just a total coincidence but isn’t it weird how this whole Zombie fad in America started shortly after the war?

  10. I would argue that I wasn’t looking for much in this movie just because it looks like a pretty generic horror movie. But now that I’ve read this review it makes sense; the writers aren’t horror guys. The Zombies are completely generic, and even the “rules” are about as basic as they come. I was kinda waiting for some rules that weren’t just generic horror staples, and I left the theater feeling very slightly disappointed that they couldn’t come up with the sort of really sharp satire on the genre that SEAN OF THE DEAD or HOT FUZZ impressed us with (though still loving the movie overall).

    Then I realized something. ZOMBIELAND isn’t a horror film. It’s a comedy, and a damn good one. The premise just happens to have zombies in it. So, I was kind of turned off by what I thought looked like pretty unimaginative horror. What I got was a surprisingly imaginative comedy, which just happens to be be set in a world filled with zombies. The horror isn’t the point; it’s the comedy which is pretty pitch-perfect in its execution.

    And hey, that’s fine with me. If you do one thing as well as ZOMBIELAND does comedy, you don’t have to pimp another genre. Actually, well-executed comedy is probably a rarer commodity than well-executed horror. We already have a great comedy which expertly satirizes the genre — SEAN. And that’s really all we need in that regard; it gets it so right there’s not really any need to say anything else. Which is why ZOMBIELAND works so well. I get the feeling these guys just want to make funny comedies, and damn the metaphysical satire. Hey, if they keep making them this good, you won’t hear a peep of complaint from me.

  11. Ah fuck, I mean, SHAUN. Spelling it Sean is way more badass, though.

  12. Guess I’m alone on this one. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t it think it was that funny or did anything interesting other than having a few good zombie gags. And I thought the wiener kid and his rules were mostly annoying.

  13. I don’t mind zombie or vampire movies. I actually really like vampire movies only because there’s so many different angles you can go at it with. Zombies, not so much but I still like them. I do agree with the zombie comedies though. I loved Shaun of The Dead but anything after that never really caught my interest. I heard Fido was good but had no desire to watch it. Same with Zombieland. Even with Vern’s seal of approval I probably wont check it out unless one of my friends gets it on DVD or something.

    I will say though that there are more monsters that I wish we could see more of:

    Werewolves – They have a few but not many of them are any good.

    Frankenstein – Not so much the Frankenstein monster necessarily but just a general biological mistake made by a human. I guess Feast kind of fits into that category but those things are mean whereas Frankenstein’s monster is misunderstood.

    Gremlins – Not Gremlins 3 (Although I would shit my pants for a solid week if they ACTUALLY made that. Good or bad) but a horror movie that uses gremlins in it like you would any other monster movie. You don’t need Billy or Kate or even Gizmo. Basically a zombie movie with gremlins instead of zombies. Picture something like From Dusk Til Dawn with gremlins. I would see that. Plus you can have the comedy element because it was there from the start so it doesn’t fell like a cheap attempt at irony.

    Demons – Mother of Tears, Jeepers Creepers, and Drag Me To Hell creeped me the hell out. Demons are scary to me which is probably why I’d like to see more of them. I guess gremlins would fit into the demon category but gremlins have their own rules and demons are from hell so it’s different.

    Skeksis – Do a remake of The Birds but instead of birds you could have skeksis going around terrorizing people.

    Creature from the Black Lagoon – Remember him? No one ever revisits that guy. He must be lonely in that swamp all alone.

    Do space vampires count as using vampires? I like Lifeforce and I think Pinbacker counts as a space vampire in Sunshine. Those are the only two movies I can recall that use space vampires and they seem to be batting 1000.

    Leprechauns – The beginning animation of Lep In The Hood 2 would have made an awesome movie on it’s own which makes me think that someone should do a movie with leprechauns, or trolls or something but make it scary instead of campy.

    There’s probably more (and better ones) that I’m not thinking of, but yeah, I think it would be cool to explore other types of monsters instead of just vampires and zombies. Again, I’m not saying stop with the zombies and vampires. Just maybe give their cousins some screen time once in a while.

    Although the cool thing about zombies and vampires is that at this point you don’t have to waste time covering any ground rules since everyone is pretty well versed in their strengths and weaknesses. So there’s that.

  14. Amen on the Skeksis. Scariest monsters ever to not be in a horror movie (well, Weelers and in fact everything from RETURN TO OZ, maybe).

    Your point is well taken, Hamslime. Vampires, Zombies, and to a lesser extent Werewolves have been so thoroughly explored and mimicked that they’re basically genres unto themselves now. It’s time to give some other monsters a chance to carve out their place in the pantheon of horror. Surely it would be scarier to see some things which don’t have such rigid rules set out for them. Put audiences off balance, and all that.

    Both FIDO and ZOMBIELAND are worth your time, though. If you like smart, broad comedies, you’ll like em. Don’t think about em as horror and you’ll be fine.

  15. hamslime:
    Succubi- demons that drain men’s souls from them by banging them. Surely someone could make an interesting film out of that? Or even with the male equivalent, Incubi?
    Faeries-there’s a court of them that aren’t friendly of humans in folklore, so stuff to do with that? Kinda like the dude from Hellboy 2, but more horror-ish
    Witches haven’t gotten that many movies made about them. Even the Witches of Eastwick were only “Witches” really because they banged the Devil.
    How about stuff from Greek Myth? Minotaurs, Medusas, Harpies, Syrens etc.

    Who else watches Supernatural? They do a great job on that of mixing up the weekly bad guys with different demons and ghost, pagan gods, monsters, angels, often using actual folklore/mythology.

  16. Oh, and I’d also appreciate a bit of a break from genre movies having to be “about” something under the surface. I don’t need someone making a post-apocalypse movie that’s an analogy for the recession, or blood representing oil. You can make a fun, “smart” movie in those genres without having to use symbolism like that. And if you do, and it’s interesting, well fine, but it feels sometimes that these guys are trying to hard to prove that genre can’t just work on it’s own level, that it has to “qualify” under other standards to be appreciated, rather than just as a well-made story in it’s own category.

  17. Yeah I’ll throw my support behind Fido, and I’d love to see a Vern review of it. I think overall it’s a bit of a mess and doesn’t really work as well as it could with its premise. But theres a lot of interesting stuff in it, not just from the zombie angle with a different approach to their intelligence, but also from the social-political subtext. it touches on a lot of different topics from slavery to black oppression to overly controlling government to Nazi Germany. Seriously.

  18. Although vampires have been done to death ten times more than zombies I think you can still find different angles to it. Zombie movies by definition are not about the zombies, they don’t have personalities (except Bub). Zombie movies are about the humans. But vampire movies don’t have to be, and the concept is flexible enough that you can have stories as drastically different as Dracula, Near Dark, Blade, Vampires, and Interview With a Vampire, just to name a handful. It becomes harder and harder to do a good job, but I think there’s still room for it.

    I’d like to see more swamp monsters though.

  19. Plus if we can’t have Crispin Glover Zombie, Billy Connolly Zombie has to be a close second. Yeah, FIDO’s got it where it counts.

  20. Guess I’m in the minority with this one, but while I enjoyed this one it wasn’t nearly as much as other people seem to, and I think anyone comparing this to Shaun of the Dead is way off for one chief reason: Shaun was a horror movie. I’m confused when Vern talks about how the zombies in this movie as being ‘real’ zombies as opposed to Shaun’s because for me it is the opposite. In Shaun they were a legitmate threat but every once in a while there would be a gag, Romero style, but in Zombieland they’re funny. In Shaun characters died, sometimes horribly, and it was always sad and affective. When someone got offed, people mourned them and sometimes it took awhile for people to actually go. Simon Pegg weeping as his mom convulses and gags while everyone watches on, silently crying, you could put that in a ‘serious’ movie, and not touch it and it would fit.
    And I’m just not convinced the writing is as good as people are making it out to be, chiefly with the third act. I keep asking people who have seen it and like it more then me why Emma Stone would turn on all the lights and sounds inside the amusement park, and the answer I keep getting is people jokingly saying “They were girls, what do you expect them to do” Sorry, I just do not buy that two people smart enough to survive the zombie apocalypse would fuck up like that.
    Why does Jesse Eisenberg run into that haunted house? Absolutely pointless. I would have forgiven it if they had set up a good gag or something, but a giant hand comes out of the wall and grabs a zombie? That’s it? Sorry I have to call bullshit.
    And I also have to call bullshit on the scene where Jesse and Woody have their little tiff and are going to break off, and Jesse makes a big speech about how Woody needs to let other people into his life, when at no point in the movie Woody had done anything to suggest otherwise. Woody stopped to help a hitchhiker, and stuck with the group through thick and thin. It was pretty much everyone else except him who was running away from companionship and family and whatever. And why was Jesse riding a motorcycle he clearly had no idea how to ride, when there were dozens of cars around he could have taken?
    Why did the girls make a big thing of sneaking away at dawn, when they had explained exactly where they were going to the other guys multiple times?
    And everyone seems to love the little gimmick where the characters all are named for their destinations or places of origin, but I don’t get it. I understand that Tallahassee would be sort of stand-offish about something like that, but why wouldn’t any of the other characters just immediately say “Hey my name’s so and so” I mean they are (presumably) meeting other live people for the first time in months, why would they avoid things like trading names? Why do the sisters not say each other names?
    If I would compare Zombieland to another movie, it wouldn’t be Shaun, it would be Ghostbusters. That was another movie that took the mythology and tropes of a fixture of the horror genre, and then riffed on it with a blue collar attitude and an ironic distance. In both movies you were aware the whole time that everyone in the group was safe and going to make it out OK, so you could just relax and giggle at the jokes and not worry.
    This is a good movie, I’m not arguing that. But I think low expectations and a lot of weak previous efforts are making people overlook the weaknesses and reward it more then it necessarily deserves. I am glad to see the movie do so well, if ony because we need more weird, original offbeat movies with decent budgets out there.
    To wrap up: Fido is really good (but also pure comedy, no horror).

  21. I’ll more than likely check out Fido at one point or another and I’m sure I’ll even like it. I’m just don’t feel that I NEED to see it, if that makes any sense.

    I felt the same way about Otis until I finally checked it out. Now I can’t believe I waited so long because I thought that movie was awesome. Mostly because it wasn’t enywhere near the movie I thought it was going to be.

    With Fido, (as great as it may be) looks like a _____ movie with zombies, which is why I’m not breaking down doors to watch it. Like I said, I most likely will at some point yadda, yadda, yadda.

    As a side note, has there been any movie that deals with a religious person or family that has to come ot terms with having their soul damned by becoming a zombie or vampire or whatever? I know they’ve gleaned over it once or twice, but imagine that your wife or brother or someone close dies and they go to heaven. You then get bit by a vampire and you have a permanent ticket to hell. When people die there’s a hope that you’ll see them in the afterlife, but if you’re damned you know for sure that you’ll never see them ever again.

    If your kid is damned would you want to be bitten too as to not abandon him/her in the after life? If you didn’t, would you worry that your child resents you for not protecting them and leaving them to burn in hell, alone no less? Something like that.

  22. I think that that is exactly what that movie ‘Thirst’ is all about, a priest becomes a vampire and it fucks him up.

  23. Damn. I forgot all about that one. Is that ever coming out?

  24. The best horror movie ever to have absolutely nothing going on under the surface: The Evil Dead. What you see is what you get with that movie, god bless it.

  25. Good points Brendan. Maybe my comparison to SHAUN wasn’t accurate. I’ll have to watch that one again some time, but I remember it having gags like throwing records to kill zombies and the slacker zombie playing video games and stuff like that. Not that anything’s wrong with that, but I never took it as an actual horror movie but with comedy like AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON or even as much as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

    My big question at the amusement park was not why they turned everything on but how the fuck they expected to get off that ride with nobody to operate it.

  26. I don’t think Shaun navigates the comedy/horror line as well as American Werewolf (which I just rewatched for the first time in a long time and OHMYGOD that movie is amazing) and I think those moments you mentioned do tip the scales a little bit (my pet peeve was the scene where they pretend to be zombies to cross the street) but I’ll chalk things like that up to the fact that this was Wright’s first real movie and he didn’t have the kinks worked out in his style yet. But the parts where it works are jaw-dropping, and I think the fact that they had the balls to go to the dark places they do, within the framework of the comedy they created deserves credit. Plus it’s just fucking funny.

    Maybe they were going to shoot it?

  27. I think the record throwing works because they set up that Shaun and Ed are geeks who have spent their lives watching movies and playing video games, so it would make sense that when confronted with real zombies they would try to do something like they would in a comic book (kill them in a really styilized manner). Once they realize just how ineffective such methods are, they cut the shit, grab a shovel and beat their heads in. They repeat this point later with the sequence with the tetherball, where he tries to do some kind of Ash-style move, and it doesn’t phase the dude, so then Shaun just stabs him.

  28. Haven’t seen this yet. But by the impression of this review, does that mean no reviews of “Doghouse”, “Dance of the Dead”, “Fido” and the upcoming “Revenant”? Or Does “Zombieland” pretty much bookend everything “Shaun of the dead” may or may not have started?

    Not to ask much, but I’m curious as to what your thoughts of those movies were. Even if they aren’t full on reviews If you’ve seen them.

  29. Of all the horror comedies, I still think RE-ANIMATOR works best, better than AMERICAN WEREWOLF which always seemed more comedy to me. RE-ANIMATOR is genuinely creepy, and disgusting, and offensive, and occasionally scary, but it has a good sense of fun about the whole terrible mess. AMERICAN WEREWOLF always seemed to me in the SHAUN OF THE DEAD mode, which is a comedy that happens to have monsters in it. And that’s great, I like them both. But I kind of long for the good 80’s gore comedies like RE-ANIMATOR and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD which were nasty horror movies first, that happened to have laughs, but not at the expense of the serious threat that was at hand. I guess SLITHER is the closest, but I kind of lost respect for it after seeing NIGHT OF THE CREEPS on youtube.

  30. What’s weird man is that of all the movies James Gunn was riffing on with Slither, Night of the Creeps wasn’t one of them. He has a MASSIVE interview with Quint in the AICN archives and he explains the whole thing. Pretty goofy, but both movies are enjoyable and Night of the Creeps is coming to DVD soon and I can put it with Monster Squad and own every movie Fred Dekker ever directed (Robocop 3 notwithstanding because it doesn’t exist).

  31. Majestyk, I would disagree, I think there is something going on underneath the surface of that movie. There was clearly something very, very wrong with Sam Raimi’s life that he would come up with that kind of stuff. I’m not sure what exactly he is trying to say with that movie, but there is clearly something motivating the anger that would lead to putting together the tree-rape scene. I just don’t see someone putting that in a movie just for kicks.

  32. I loved Shaun Of The Dead, but definitely as a comedy rather than as a horror movie, and partly because I thought it was one of the best translations of the English sitcom sensibility to film (which really can be horrific sometimes). In both of their genre parody movies, they mine the conventions of the genre a bit for some gags but a lot of the humour seems to come more from character and dialogue, just in a different setting than most comedy.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to this. If you’re not gonna have Dylan Moran in your comedy zombie movie, Woody Harrelson is a good bet.

  33. I was interested in Shaun more as a fan of Pegg/Frost/Wright’s work in the sitcom Spaced, which SOTD was a good continuation of the comedy stylings of, but I do think it does work well enough as a horror on it’s own. It wasn’t a “spoof” like so many people make it out to be, but just a zombie movie that happened to be a comedy, mostly derived from a british take on it. I guess we also have Zombieland to thank for a pointless american remake being even less likely now.

  34. Brendan, I don’t think youthful aggression and bad taste count as subtext. Raimi put in the tree rape because he thought the drive-in audiences of the time would like it. That’s it. It didn’t represent Vietnam or nature getting its revenge over people raping the environment, and the demons didn’t symbolize the repressed id of the baby boomer generation or anything like that. The whole movie was just some goofy horror shit, presented completely at face value. It gets by completely on style, not subtext. It’s one of the only classic 70s/80s horror movie that doesn’t mean a damn thing, and in a strange way, that’s what gives it its power. It’s a bizarre nightmare undiluted by metaphor.

  35. To be honest the scariest thing mentioned here is Robocop3 . (Bolts door, closes windows and hides behind the couch, just in case the dvd is in the neighbourhood.)

    Shaun was more than just a horror comedy type thing, but they took a lot of that from ‘Spaced’. I didn’t think it was as sharp as Hot Fuzz though.

    Zombieland for all the nitpicking being done was still a pretty succssful attempt, much better than i expected. As for some of the complaints about the characters actions, just sit back and listen to the clown nose. That was worth the set up alone. Although the homage to ‘Deliverance’ ran it a pretty close second. (Won’t talk about the other part, that no one is supposed to talk about, no talking being done here)

  36. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one nitpicking, everyone else seems pretty much agreed with you. But alas, I must pick nits, it is my blessing, my curse, my duty. That and, c’mon I’m a horror geek, that’s my thing.

  37. Nitpicking excepted, its always good to have at least one different opinion in any discussion.

    I can only add that we should be thankful it was Zombieland and not ‘A Zombie Movie’. Those sort of films (stop hiding in the back Carmen Electra, we all know you done it for the money you shameful, large breasted hussy) have done a lot of damage to the comedy genre and they may take generations to be forgotten, can’t see them every being forgiven though.

  38. do’oh

    note to self, remember to spell check in future.

  39. I want to see them make WORLD WAR Z into a movie. Then the zombie movies can stop.

  40. World War Z is currently being developed by Quantum of Solace director Marc Foster and Babylon 5 guy, J. Michael Stryzinski (I totally spelt that wrong) aka the guy who wrote Clint’s Changeling.

  41. World War Z is an amazing book, the audio version is pretty sweet if abridged a little, but the cast is awesome and really make it come alive (if you know what i mean)

    Aint it dull news had a cool write up of the script before, but i’m sure it’ll get fucked well before it reaches the screen. I still have some sort of confused seizure eveytime i see more that 5 seconds of Quantum of Solace

    Another good zombie story is Day by Day Armageddon. I managed to lose the book before i got it finished (damn pesky kids, thats my story and i’m sticking to it)

    It was seriously gripping and seemed to have a few cool ideas, if a little ‘military’ for my usual tastes, but it was a book i took a flier on and will pickup again some day.

  42. Is Marc Foster still attached? I’m sure I read a while ago that he left the project. But I might be wrong.

  43. From the description I read of the book, I assume that the WWZ movie will be done in the style of a fake documentary? If so, ehhhhhh…we’ll see.

  44. How about “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”? Anyone here read that one?

  45. Think Foster is still attached, you never know maybe Bond was just a blip, but i’m not holding out too much hope.

    I heard it will be interview style, discussion leading into flashbacks. The book had lots of ‘moments’ that would make for a quality movie.

    Still there is always Rec2 (which does play games with the ‘zombie’ angle of the first) and La Horde, which i hear is solid if not genre changing.

  46. I was lucky enough to get sneak peak passes to this last Thursday and I gotta say I havent left a theater with a smile on my face like that in quite some time. I was sold when the lady comes flying through her windshield and Eisenberg says buckle up its gunna be one hell of a ride or something to that effect.
    It was just alot of fun beginning to end for me with only a few scenes i fel needed tightened up(the scene where they smash the souvenir store jumps to mind).
    Yeah there are some questions that do come to mind like Brendan and Vern said, I def thought the same thing about them getting on the rides, how they going to get off that now? But I am def willing to cut them some slack on some minor plausibility issues when the rest of the movie is so damn funny

    As far as giving up the zombie genre for a while, no thanks. Yeah its def a subject thats been covered back and forth several times over but something just keeps bringing me back. Maybe its because,like Nazis, they are one of the few groups that you can watch get destroyed in all kinds of creative and fucked up ways and really not feel too bad for, i mean that dude clearly wanted to eat your brains.
    Zombies kick ass and with Left 4 Dead 2 coming out soon I can see the zombie craze lasting a while still, and I like it.

  47. I don’t think the World War Z script that Moriarty reviewed (and loved) was documentary style. It was about a UN worker or something working on a report that requires him to travel around talking to different people about their experiences. I guess that could mean fakumentary but I took it to mean more like a detective movie or Law and Order episode.

    I have to admit, I never finished that book. I know it’s universally praised so I’m probly an asshole. It had some cool ideas in it but the fake documentary style in book form was even harder for me to take than in a movie. I wanted to read a story about some of those ideas instead of just a bunch of fake interview transcriptions. I guess I wanted a story, not a role playing manual. But I’d still give the movie a shot I think.

  48. I’m not sure how far you got Vern, but if I remember it right, as the book progressed the interviewer became less and less of a character, and the stories spoke completely for themselves and were allowed to simply move at their own pace. It was almost like a collection of short stories about surviving the apocalypse, like if Stephen King split the Stand into individual books that intersected with each other.
    Fun Fact: the writer of that book and the Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks, is Mel Brooks’ son. And that’s pretty cool.

  49. The audio book plays more like a documentary than the book (does that make sense ? , do i care ?)

    The book seems to be someones collection of news snippets and talking head style blogs of the shit going down, the audio book is like a load of soundbites edited together with only the narrator/reporter linking them.

    But anyway back on topic, Zombieland better than that other recent Zombie movie Halloween 2, maybe not as funny though (not seen it, but do i need to ?)

  50. The difference between Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead is that they’ve both got their origins in different zombie time periods. Neither is a parody of the genre, but work as a zombie film with comedy.

    SotD just seems a little more “lulz zombies” than zombieland because SotD is paying homage to the Romero zombies, the slow shuffling stupid ones that are only really a threat in big numbers. That’s why they can be played more for laughs earlier in the film, but become more of a threat later. Whilst zombieland has its heart in the ‘modern’ zombie film; 28 days, DotD remake etc. Where running zombies are more of a constant threat throughout and can be a threat on their own. So the zombies never feel like they’re being played for lulz as much as in SotD because they’re not as inherently funny as the slow shuffling zombies are.

  51. Good Bad Groovy — I kinda felt the opposite, like SHAUN takes the zombies seriously as a threat, while ZOMBIELAND just uses them as a comic prop. I think it has more to do with the tone of the films than the zombies themselves; they laugh at the zombies at first, but by the halfway point we’ve seen zombies kill a few main characters, with real emotional results and their situation by the last act seems deeply bleak. With ZOMBIELAND, by contrast, I never felt worried about any of the characters, nor did it they really milk the idea of zombies in a horrorific way. It was actually sort of fun whenever you saw a zombie, because you knew Woody was gonna kick some ass in an amusing way.

    Someone up there compared ZOMBIELAND to GHOSTBUSTERS, and I think that’s a beautiful comparison. A classic horror trope combined as a background for a really solid ensemble comedy. But not a horror movie by any stretch of the imagination.

    SotD, though, despite moments of silliness, gets some mileage out of the gruesome horror and hopelessness inherent in its zombie concept.

    Interesting to see a range of opinions on the subject, though. And what’s great is, everyone seems to have at least liked both films pretty well!

  52. dieselboy: not sure if you’ve heard of it, but there’s a nazi zombie movie called DOD SNO (DEAD SNOW) released not long ago. Availability might be difficult because it’s a Norwegian movie. It’s been playing here in Canada for a few weeks.

    The trailer is available here:

    So there you go: your two favorite villains in one movie.

  53. And of course the Call of Duty: World at War game has a gamplay mode where you see how long you can survive against a neverending tide of Nazi Zombies (and Japanese Soldier Zombies).

  54. This has been the year of great slo-mo opening credit sequences.
    I preferred the guy running from the stripper.

  55. I find it weird that Vern says zombie movies don’t have much flexibility because they are inevitabley about the humans since the zombies by definition have no personality. As far as I know they have made a lot of good movies about humans and that humans represent a great source of entertainment and have many great stories that can be told with them. But The Lion King was pretty good too.

  56. I’m just saying you can have ten thousand interesting variations of vampires, but with zombies you get very far from the formula and it’s either not zombies anymore or just not cool. Even between the two DAWN OF THE DEADS the zombies aren’t THAT much different from each other, it’s mainly just a speed issue. So the zombie element seems repetitive after a certain number of movies. With vampires though you have monsters, you have seducers, you have flying ones, morphing ones, pretentious ones, outlaw drifters, daywalkers, ones that hide in the dark, ones that control the world, ones that live in castles, little ones, etc. You have good guys, bad guys, anti-heroes, charismatic ones, faceless beasts. You can deal with their torment or not, you can show the same character hundreds of years ago and in the future. With a zombie you just have a dead body that you need to shoot.

    I mean if I had to choose I’d go with DAWN OF THE DEAD over any vampire movie, I’m just saying that’s why the zombie subgenre gets old faster. Might as well use the same characters but with more original monsters to face.

  57. “With a zombie you just have a dead body that you need to shoot.”

    I always figured that there are two main ways to make zombies interesting: the residual artifacts of the human that can still be observed in the zombie’s behaviour, and the manner in which the zombie is killed. A lot has been done with these two features, but, ultimately, I’d agree with Vern that vampires exhibit far more potential, largely due to their ability to speak and articulate their particular condition. By definition zombies don’t have moral dilemmas.

    Having said that, I’d could endlessly watch a standard zombie try to accomplish a goal, no matter how simple. The physicality of the zombie is far more interesting to me than a vampire’s. Bonus points if the zombie is wearing a tattered suit and necktie.

  58. Zombies, vampires, who cares? Werewolves, baby! Werewolves!

  59. I agree with Vern that as far as zombies go you can make them fast, you can make them slow, or you can rename them “Somolians” like Ridley Scott did in Black Hawk Down, but they’re always the same monster.

    I guess to me zombies are just a threat that’s neither implicitly interesting or uninteresting, like guns. You can make guns look different but the idea is always the same that a bullet flies out of the barrel and hits you. What’s interesting is how people use them and react to them and the situations etc. The way John Woo uses guns in a movie is different than how Sergio Leone uses guns or how Michael Mann uses guns, the same goes for zombies.

  60. Still riding that TEEN WOLF buzz, CJ?

    I’m surprised no one has come out to support the mummies. Those fuckers always get the short end.

  61. Wolfgang: let me be the first to applaud your BLACK HAWK DOWN line. Beautiful.

  62. i loved this film it was just so EPIC! i dont think ive laughed so much at a film since shawn of the dead. lolololololololol thats what i did. then other went lolololololololol so everyone was going lolololololol :D

  63. I watched this last night for the first time. It was funny and I enjoyed it while it was on but you know sometimes when you sleep on a film and when you wake up the next morning you think, “What the hell did I watch last night? Oh yeah, ZOMBIELAND. What an empty, forgettable experience that was.”

    Wolfgang – Has there ever been a picture where someone used zombies as a murder weapon? Interesting premise.

  64. Darryll — well, in Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HALLOW the horseman himself is SPOILER TO AN OLD MOVIE a murder weapon being weilded by Miranda Richardson’s character. Not a zombie, exactly, but sort of. For the record, I thought that particular plot point really negated lot of the horseman’s power to scare us, so maybe that’s a road which is better left untrodden by real zombies. SPOILER TO AND OLD MOVIE ABOVE

    I liked ZOMBIELAND a lot, though. It’s one of those rare movies which is trying to do only one simple thing but really does it right.

  65. On SLEEPY HOLLOW – Good point Mr. S. I liked that angle, though. It made an otherwise one dimensional supervillain into something a little more interesting. That anyone with the arcane knowledge could call forth a weapon like that is a little scary. It’s been a while, though, and I remember that film as being generally fun but silly. Not a source for horror.

    ZOMBIELAND – Yeah, I guess that was my problem with it and with zombie movies in general nowadays. They do one thing. Simply. The most interesting aspect of any Zombie picture is the humans and their interactions. I found these particular humans to be pretty uninteresting.

  66. I try to think of ZOMBIELAND as a comedy with Zombies in it, not a horror comedy. You know, like GHOSTBUSTERS is a comedy with ghosts in it, and it triesa little bit to scare or at least be a little eerie, but mostly it’s just a comedy with that as a backdrop (as opposed to something like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and actual horror-comedy). Like most comedys, its gonna live or die on the actors and their interactions, which worked like a charm for me, but if that’s not working for you there’s really nothing much there at all.

    As for SLEEPY HALLOW, it’s been a looong time since i saw it (I think its one of Vern’s very first reviews, maybe his first, so its been awhile) but I remember thinking it was a really great doom-and-gloom horror show right up until the whole Miranda Richardson deal, after which it becomes exactly what you describe, a silly, over-the-top chase which slumps to a ridiculous conclusion. Perhaps I went in wanting too much because of its fantastic trailer, which is basically just the most effective scene in the movie (the family murder with the spinning lamp projecting shapes). In context, the scene actually plays much weaker because it turns out not to have much to do with anything. Warning, not a significant source of horror according to the FDA.

  67. I have to admit, part of my problem with ZOMBIELAND was related to a pet peeve of mine. Namely, the proliferation of college student characters in movies. It’s way to much. They were trying to set up this ODD COUPLE vibe with the two male leads and I kept thinking, how great would this be with the actual ODD COUPLE era Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and zombies? Or a couple of guys with that same vibe. Say, Woody Harrelson and…I don’t know…off the top of my head…Bill Murray maybe? That could have worked.

  68. I don’t like scary movies for the most part, so with a couple of exceptions (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER) I never liked zombie movies. The reason I did enjoy this one was, like Mr. Subtlety implied, because it is at heart a comedy, not a horror film. Woody Harrelson really sold it. I mean, he kills a zombie with a banjo! That should be enough for anybody. I see they are making a ZOMBIELAND 2 – maybe in that one hill bludgeon one to death with a contra-bassoon.

    As many before me have pointed out before, Jesse Eisenberg’s looks and performance are highly comparable to Michael Cera’s shtick. If the upcoming ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT project is as the final episode suggested a film within a film, he should definitely be cast as Cera’s doppelganger (maybe with Bob Odenkirk returning to play Tobias?)

    You are right Vern, that part with the ‘zombie kill of the week’ should not have been in the film. That seems like the kind of scene that the writers thought was awesome when they were working on the script at four in the morning, eating lean pockets and smoking K2. It should have been in the deleted scenes.

    And although you are right about there being multiple ways to approach making a vampire film, I do not believe THIRST and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN are going to be be topped. Especially in American cinema. Especially not by the Matt Reeves (THE PALLBEARER) directed LET THE RIGHT ONE IN remake. Fuck that. So please Vern, extend your ten year zombie moratorium to vampire movies also. The world will listen.

  69. Finally saw this on Netflix instant (man, those Starz Play movies are hard on the eyes) – thought it was pleasant and forgettable, and basically what you would expect from an 88 minute zombie comedy. I will have to give it credit though for being (spoiler) – a)the first zombie movie where none of the main characters die, and b) nobody gets bit by a zombie/vampire and goes “I’m ok! I’m ok!” and proceeds to hide their infection from the other characters for the whole goddamn movie.

  70. I loved it way, way, way more than I thought I would based on the trailer. In terms of expectations versus delivery, I have to compare it to Blade II. It’s not often I have modest expectations for a movie that I turn out to be flat out in love with. Usually the movies I fall in love with I expected too before hand. This was one of those rare sneaky ones, one that seemed fairly harmless, that totally grabbed me.

  71. I just watched it and I like it. I didn’t love it though. It’s one of these movies, that are very well made and don’t do anything wrong, but also lack a certain thing that keeps them from becoming forgettable.

  72. This was on TV last night and I watched the first half. Then I had to stop. I don’t think this one holds up, guys. I really enjoyed it the first time I watched it. I think I’ve even seen it a second, or maybe third time, but I haven’t seen it in years. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t enjoying it. I thought maybe it was that it was on TV and edited for content and time. It just felt off. Maybe too cute? Then when the guys meet up with the girls for the 2nd time Columbus is talking about Wichita in his head and says, (paraphrasing) “She’s not like most beautiful women – stuck up bitches.” And there it is. This is the movie equivalent of the angry, bitter, anti-social nerd who thinks he’s smarter, funnier and cleverer than everyone else, including the audience. He can still be funny at times, but he’s also an asshole.

    Woody is still awesome, though.

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