Its official: Great Britain is to blame for everything: bad teeth, football violence, Simon Cowell and now the zombie apocalypse. Yep, good old fashioned mad cow disease triggers America’s latest chompfest, “Zombieland.”
The forgotten epidemic is alive and well in your local fast food joint, biding its time whilst his flash cousin swine flu is grabbing all the headlines. When it comes back to reclaim our attention, it’s only a matter of months before the land of the free becomes the home of the grave.
Debut director Fleischer cuts to the chase quickly, with a ballistic montage of slow motion mayhem. Zombie strippers chase punters still clutching their beer, greed beats sense as looters cling desperately to stolen dollars and Tony Montana wannabes spray bullets indiscriminately without looking over their shoulders. Looks like the States had it coming.
When the dust settles, World of Warcraft nerd Columbus is the last man standing in his vicinity. A self-confessed coward, he survives by clinging to a set of rules compiled from the movies and Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide.” These life skills are highlighted through Columbus’s wry narration and some clever graphics that ping up like video game power ups every time he successfully uses them.
Along the way, Columbus encounters Woody Harrelson’s sublime Tallahassee, a zombie killing badass who dreams up new and inventive ways of offing the undead. Tallahassee is the acceptable face of Mickey Knox from “Natural Born Killers,” using his murderous skills for good rather than ill. Shears, bats and guns are all employed to gruesomely comic effect as he searches for the last Twinkie through the ravaged cities and countryside.
The unlikely duo teams up with a pair of ultra-smart grifter sisters Wichita and Little Rock on their way to a Californian theme park, Pacific Playland. Wichita is the girl you always knew would turn out to be a fox, but were too afraid to ask out, and her smoky tomboy voice only adds to her appeal. Columbus fancies his chances, but will he break one of his golden rules, “Don’t be a hero”?
Fleischer moulds his foursome into a corpse-crunching Griswold family from hell, driving from one disaster to another in their own “National Lampoon’s Zombie Vacation.” Even one of Chevy Chase’s old buddies turns up in a hilarious cameo during a bonding session in a Hollywood mansion, before the ingenious final showdown in Pacific Playground.
“Zombieland” treats the genre like the ultimate in theme park entertainment, a place to indulge your every fantasy. Want to kill the prom queen? No problem. Steal a Hummer? Go for it. Fire off an Uzi? Here’s your ammo. We’ve seen something similar in “Westworld,” but Yul Brynner was never this much fun. “Zombieland” is a brash, garish chocolate box of a film, filled with green goo and blue muck, but with a few soft centres that hit the right emotional spots. It’s no “Dawn of the Dead” but, like Tallahassee says, “Enjoy the little things.”