ZOMBIELAND

ZOMBIELAND

A zom-com starring Woody Harrelson that comes with a thumbs up from The Sun Online, who describe it as "a riot". If that doesn't fix your expectations lower than a midget's knackers, then I don't know what possibly could.

But ...

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is our narrator, a geeky computer game-obsessed teenager who has a fear of almost everything in the outside world.

In the opening moments of the film, Columbus tells us that for the last two months since "Patient Zero took a bite of a contaminated burger ...", he's been living as what he believes to be the sole survivor of a zombie plague that has consumed the world.

Columbus puts his survival thus far down to a number of rules that he's made up over the last few weeks: "Cardio" (i.e., keep your weight down because the zombies love to feast on "fatties"), "travel light", "check the back seat" of any cars you loot, and so on. To ensure we register the rules too, they appear onscreen intermittently throughout play.

One sunny day spent cowering on a highway littered with the walking dead while heading cross-country to find out if his parents have survived, Columbus meets psychotic Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and imposes himself upon the hard-man. Tallahassee doesn't want - or need - a partner, but begrudgingly agrees to take Columbus on his mission: a search for Twinkies.

They make a good team, negotiating the destroyed towns of middle America in Tallahassee's Cadillac, stopping occasionally for him to kill zombies in inventive manners while Columbus tries his best not to show his new ally how spineless he truly is.

A jaunt to an abandoned supermarket in search of Twinkies results in the pair meeting two girl survivors - Wichita (Emma Stone) and 12-year-old Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) - who dupe our witless antiheroes into handing over their guns ... and, ultimately, the Cadillac.

Which understandably leaves Tallahassee smarting. He still hasn't got his Twinkies at this point either. And so, he and Columbus steal a disused car from the deserted streets - complete with heavy artillery conveniently dumped on the back seat - and set out in pursuit of the Cadillac. And Twinkies.

Along the way, Columbus and Tallahassee gradually open up to each other. This affords us some amusing flashbacks into their previous lives and how they first became aware of the zombie epidemic: Columbus' awakening came at a very unfortunate moment spent with his cute blonde neighbour (Amber Heard); Tallahassee mourns the loss of his pet dog.

Upon catching up with sisters Wichita and Little Rock (notice a theme with the names, perchance?), we also get an amusing flashback to their past life as con artists - and then it's back on the road as the mismatched foursome attempt to set aside their differences and make their way to California in search of life, and Columbus' folks. And Twinkies.

Along the way, Columbus and Wichita's relationship slowly but surely blossoms through set-pieces including a raucous foray to an Indian souvenir shop and even a stop at Bill Murray's Hollywood mansion.

Any film that opens with a montage of daytime zombie attacks set to the thumping beat of Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" has immediately got me on side.

From there, ZOMBIELAND continues to impress with an unflagging pace, a host of genuinely likeable human characters and lots of snappy one-liners that actually work. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick co-wrote the screenplay and they've loaded it with wry gags, commenting on everything from zombie film clichÚs, romantic teen trauma and the stripping away of action hero machismo.

Director Ruben Fleischer is a relative novice when it comes to the big screen but he exhibits a deft command over his largely young cast, an exquisite sense of racy storytelling and some highly attractive visual action.

The cast are excellent, breathing flesh and blood into characters that could've easily been interpreted as arrogant wise-crackers. Instead, their understanding of Reese and Wernick's intelligent script lends warmth and added wit to an already sassy comedy.

Eisenberg holds the whole thing together by offering a perfect take on the nerdish anti-hero that has become a staple ingredient of 21st Century comedy (see everything from JUNO to SUPERBAD and beyond). He's warm, witty and easy to empathise with. Harrelson meanwhile is clearly having a ball with what amounts to the best career choice he's made since NATURAL BORN KILLERS - and he knows it.

The shots of empty streets devastated by disease and litter are frequently striking, while the cameo from Murray (playing himself) is a scene-stealer that reminds you of the comic genius he is.

People looking for a horror film may well come away from ZOMBIELAND feeling short-changed, as beyond the opening ten minutes or so this becomes more of an examination of the possibilities - and things we miss - of living in a world nigh-on devoid of human contact. However, we do get some enjoyably gooey zombie attacks on occasion, and the undead FX are very good indeed.

ZOMBIELAND is presented uncut in an excellent 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer that boasts strong colours and sharp detail, ably highlighting Michael Bonvillain's stunning cinematography throughout.

English audio is presented in a well-fleshed, evenly balanced and frequently rousing 5.1 mix. There is also a French 5.1 dubbed track but I stayed clear of this. Optional subtitles are available in a multitude of languages, including English and English for the hard of hearing.

There is also an audio descriptive track provided as an option in English.

A colourful and fun animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu offering access to ZOMBIELAND via 28 chapters.

Extras begin with a good commentary track from Fleischer, who's on good form as he chats enthusiastically with Reese, Wernick, Harrelson and Eisenberg. A few giggles here and there don't quash the ample background information that's being pummelled through by Fleischer, while the actors show an obvious affection for the film - even through to the amusing end credit titles.

"In Search Of Zombieland" is a 16-minute featurette that mixes cast and crew sound-bites with Behind The Scenes footage to good effect.

"Zombieland Is Your Land" looks more closely at the film's production design over the course of its 12 minutes, specifically focusing on key set-piece scenes such as the theme park utilised later in the film.

Seven deleted scenes follow, greeted by their own sub-menu allowing you to watch them individually or as one 5-minute whole. These are time-coded and don't add anything of consequence to the overall story.

"Visual Effects Progression Scenes" is a brief montage of silent clips that offer precious little insight into how some of the film's FX were developed. This is far too short at 2 minutes in length to qualify as edification.

Finally we get five original theatrical promo trailers for ZOMBIELAND, plus trailers for MICHAEL JACKSON'S THIS IS IT, THE BOONDOCK SAINTS 2: ALL SAINTS DAY, ARMORED, 2012 and a blu-ray showcase.

ZOMBIELAND is great fun and well served on an excellent DVD.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
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