Zombies are so much
cooler than vampires. Take a look at the pretty damn good zombie
flicks that have come out over the last five years. Through
my Testor's-glue-induced haze I can remember the fantastic Dawn
of the Dead, the okay Land of the Dead, the pretty
good Shaun of the Dead, and now the pretty damn good
Zombieland. They all have something in common besides
being about the undead wanting to eat your brains: they're hellbent
on entertaining you. They aren't all wrapped up in some bullshit
mythology or trying to make some grand statement. They're just
trying to make you laugh, cringe, and have a good time.
By contrast, vampire
movies are mostly dull and pretentious. The Twilight
bullshit is some of the stupidest, most trite and overblown
moviemaking (and bookwriting) ever. It's like they're a dare
to see how obvious and patronizing something can be before teenagers
figure out they're being had. Why would anyone think pasty,
whining teens are sexy? Why do the living have to mope around
so much? When did that permanent fog roll in? Vampire movies
are dour, humorless slogs through reams of rules and minutiae,
while there's something about zombies that makes people laugh.
is pretty fucking funny. It's as gory as the medics tent at
a Renaissance Faire for skinheads, and it moves along at a nice
clip without a lot of fancy-director-blue-filter horseshit to
let you know how painfully romantic it all is. The movie has
its flaws, but they're nothing compared to funny Bill Murray's
playing Michael Cera again, is a nerdy, shy college kid doomed
to a lonely life of Code Red Mountain Dew and World of Warcraft
when the girl of his dreams bangs on his front door begging
for help. She was just attacked by a bum who tried to bite her,
and now she just wants refuge and a little snuggle. He's in
love. By morning, however, she's a zombie, and he must make
the difficult decision to beat the living shit out of the only
girl he ever got close to with a porcelain toilet tank lid.
As is typical to the genre, the boy ventures outside only to
discover the world has gone to shit in a Manwich: overturned
cars, destroyed houses, and the undead everywhere eating brains.
Eisenberg is heading
east toward Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are alive.
If not, can he have the Hummel collection? He crosses paths
with the only other living person he's seen, Woody Harrelson.
Harrelson is a good old boy who seems pretty damn pleased that
everyone else is a zombie. That's more targets to shoot at.
Free cars, too, and all the Twinkies are for him. The hillbilly
and the emo kid team up to drive east. They run into two more
survivors: Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, a scheming pair of
sisters who steal Harrelson's truck. They're on their way to
Pacific Playland, an amusement park in California rumored to
Eisenberg is smitten
with Stone, a raven-haired, big-eyed girl wearing enough mascara
to print a dozen newspapers. Even though she's stolen the boys'
truck, and then steals the next when the first breaks down,
he wants to follow her. So he does, along with Harrelson, who
reveals his motivation is the tired-ass cliche of having a dead
child. Like I said last week, this overused excuse for a background
is just fucking lazy writing. Even in a movie where 99.999 percent
of everyone is dead.
The four survivors
head to the coast with a side trip to the mansion of Bill Murray
(playing himself). It's a huge, froofy joint where it's quite
easy to either watch Ghostbusters or listen to its theme.
You can also admire a wide range of arts featuring the likeness
of Murray. While the four get comfortable in the mansion, an
ashen, moaning Murray rises from his bed and begins to roam
I'm not going to
give much more detail on the rest of the scene at Murray's.
I'll just say he isn't deadand just dresses like a zombie so
he can go out and mingle. Murray's cameo ends with a moment
as funny as anything I've seen this year, including the time
Miriam passed out on the bar at Binker's and some of the regulars
took turns crapping in her purse. Normally defecating in an
old lady's purse is only mildly amusing, but Miriam once took
a legendary dumper in the Mercury convertible out front and
brings it up in every conversation. "Your mother's illness reminds
me of the time..."
Eventually, the four
survivors make it to Pacific Playland, the girls first and the
boys in pursuit. Romance blossoms between Eisenberg and Stone
when he acts the hero. Harrelson and Eisenberg, who start the
movie as polar opposites, become pals in the cop-buddy tradition.
Dozens of zombies are crushed and maimed among the cogs and
wheels of the amusement park. A twinkie is consumed.
is pure genre. There's the zombie movie, the road movie, the
cop-buddy movie and the nerd who seeks the unattainable girl
and must be a hero to win her movie. The thing is--and a shitload
of people who write me don't understand this--there's nothing
wrong with genre. Snooty assholes and wannabe film school types
look down their noses at any movie that follows a set formula.
Those folks are idiots. Genre can be great when done well, like
in Zombieland. There are a million ways to be original
and clever within the framework of a common theme. Bad genre
movies suck when they lean heavily on the genre, or treat the
framework like gospel (e.g. vampire shit). Bad movies don't
expand or add new twists to genre. Besides, road movies and
zombie flicks get made so often because they're such fertile
soil and there's a shitload of corn to harvest.
doesn't make the most of any of its genres. In truth, the movie
gets so wrapped up in its little love story that the undead
disappear from the movie for long stretches. Overall, for a
world overrun with corpses, there aren't that many around. There
are a few at the amusement park, some in a grocery store, and
a straggler here and there. The Eisenberg-Stone romance is mostly
uninteresting. Neither character adds much to the their basic
outlines of shy nerd and bad-girl-on-the-outside-only. The road
movie portion is somewhat untethered. It's difficult to get
a grip on where they are and how far they have to go. Harrelson's
lust for Twinkies gets to be an old joke pretty quick.
Along the heroes'
journey, though, and within the genres, there are moments of
pure pleasure made with the pure intent to entertain. Like when
the four of them trash a crappy Indian curio shop, breaking
fake drums, snowballs, dreamcatchers and a thousand more pieces
of shitty roadside consumerism. The Murray mansion scene, as
I've already said, is awesome goodness. The finale, putting
zombies in an amusement park is one of those great ideas that
seems so obvious it's hard to believe it wasn't thought of already.
Maybe it was, in a Scooby Doo, but definitely never in
a Scrappy Doo.
is a fine addition to the zombie canon, and yet another fine
example why movies about the undead are so much more fun ad
worth going to see than all that vampire nonsense. Leave those
flicks for the pouty, pasty, self-absorbed teenagers. Four
to tell Filthy Something?