Fantastic Fest Movie Review: Zombieland

Zombieland is unlike any one film you've ever seen before. Sure, it's about a group of people trying to survive after the zombie apocalypse, but it isn't exactly a horror movie. You will laugh your ass off, but the movie is very different than the comedy-focused horror film Shaun of the Dead. The trailers and commercials are very action-centric, but the core of the film is a buddy relationship road trip adventure. There are some bloody deaths, but for the most part, the film isn't high on gore. Zombieland hits all six genre quadrants, and is sure to satisfy everyone.Zombieland was able to beat my already high expectations. The film was a lot of fun from start to finish. The word I keep using is "awesome."  The opening sequence involves the main character Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) recounting some of the rules he uses to survive in Zombieland, set to footage of real-world examples. And while this set-up is as different as it can possibly get from the awesome opening 10-minutes of Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead, it is equally enjoyable.

Music video turned first time feature director Ruben Fleischer delivers colorful and unique visuals. For example, the opening credit sequence is amazing, showing moments from the zombie outbreak in superduper slow motion, filmed with the Phantom camera, and set to Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The most talked about sequence in the film, which I will not spoil in this review, features one of the best and most unforgettable cameos of the last decade. I encourage you to avoid talking to anyone who has seen this film, until you are able to see it for yourself. This cameo is worth the price of admission alone. As for the action, the pinnacle is definitely the zombie kills at the amusement park, which will leave you wanting more.

I was a little disappointed that the strong female characters (possible spoiler warning – invisotext follows, highlight to read) are reduced to damsels in distress during the climax. This screenplay avoids falling into a lot of the common story cliches, so I'm surprised they didn't turn against the conventions and have the women  step up to save the men.

I was surprised at some of the big budget visuals that are spread throughout this lower budget studio movie. Sony was able to pack some serious bang for the buck. The centerpiece of the film is the screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, which topped the Black List (a insider Hollywood listing of the best unproduced scripts of the year) in 2007. The story is fun, but not dumb, full of clever humor, and even has some heart — something that seems lacking in a lot of horror films today. These guys have a big future ahead of them, and Hollywood will take notice with Zombieland.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10