The new horror flick “Zombieland” is ugly, brutal, violent and occasionally repulsive. But it’s also often very funny.
Yes, “Zombieland” is a decadent horror comedy that is unapologetic in its use of gruesome mayhem to generate laughs. Its ethics may be questionable, but there’s no denying that this base enterprise is a wildly imaginative and well-produced celebration of cinematic carnage.
Jesse Eisenberg (“Adventureland”) leads the cast as Columbus a nerdy kid who lives by a strict series of rules. Among them are “Buckle your seatbelt” and “Always check the back seat.” After a virus turns most of humanity into flesh-eating zombies, these rules help him survive the cataclysm.
While on the road in Texas headed east to see if he can find his parents, Columbus meets another human survivor, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson from “Transsiberian”). A good ol’ boy who shoots straight and takes no prisoners, Tallahassee has a natural talent for zombie killing. He uses all manner of tools, instruments and weapons to dispatch them and delights in doing so.
Tallahassee and Columbus prove to be a compatible if unlikely pair. Whereas Tallahassee is brave but sometimes foolhardy, Columbus is cowardly but practical.
They meet up with a couple of sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone from “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin from “My Sister’s Keeper”) who turn out to be slick con artists. Initially, they come into conflict even though they may be the only humans left on Earth.
Eventually, this foursome makes its way west to Los Angeles where rumor has it that a theme park there is zombie-free.
The movie has some of its best moments while set in Tinseltown. Armed with a map of the stars’ homes, they make their way to Bill Murray’s mansion. There, they set up camp in the comedian’s palatial home and meet up with the famous actor himself.
Naturally, one has to compare “Zombieland” to the British farce, “Shaun of the Dead,” the zombie comedy that made Simon Pegg an international star. While it pales somewhat to that inspired British import, “Zombieland” digs up more than its share of demented laughs.
The cast is quite good, with Harrelson in particular displaying some great comic chops.
In his feature-length debut, director Ruben Fleischer shows a solid hand. Although the movie can’t sustain the frenetic pace that he establishes early on, Fleischer scores plenty of points for style.
You may be ashamed of yourself for laughing, but laugh you will. (R) Rating: ***1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it