Monday, July 13, 2015

Zombieland (2009) Review:

George A. Romero's Living Dead trilogy has left quite an impact on today's culture. Although the actual phenomena has never been a fact, the idea that an outbreak of whatever causes this possible danger could happen, is reason enough to be prepared (just in case). Of course, the concept sounds preposterous but anything is possible nowadays. Technology and science are our greatest weapons no matter how much they excel our lives. With that, multiple zombie genre films have been created decade after decade portraying zombies in new and outrageous ways. However, has anyone every jotted down the key things in every film that tends to get zombies their meal of the day? Well unless you watched them all, the best way would probably be seeing this movie here. Remember that Nickelodeon TV Show Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide (2004–2007), which gave all the tips and sparknote clues on how to survive middle to highschool? Well this is basically the same thing in feature length movie form instead with zombies.

"Get away from my Twinkie"
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)) as their first theatrical screenplay and headed by Ruben Fleischer in his first directorial debut, this collaborative trio managed to put together a solid horror comedy that is fun in a number of ways. The story follows a group of random individuals living among a planet of unlimited zombies, looking to get to their own specific destination. Audiences are first introduced to Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a scrawny geek who has trouble socializing with people and hasn't had one girlfriend. Along his travels he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a funky human swiss-army knife that has a hankering for Twinkies. Then comes Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), a pair of scam-artists that are convincingly good at their craft. The best thing about Reese and Wernick's writing is that majority of the story focuses around the characters and that's important when it comes to development and there's plenty of it too.

The second best point made are the guidelines Columbus refers to the audience about key thoughts one should have in mind if being chased by zombies. If this were real, this would probably be the briefing video on how to pull through. The characters themselves do have personalities of their own but the most memorable character of the bunch was Tallahassee. Harrelson looked like he was having a blast in his role and definitely took advantage of every moment that required some amount spontaneity. The only part of the writing that doesn't work in this film's favor is the comedy. It is funny a number of times but only because of how stupid goofy it gets. By this, it means that the world these characters live in don't take the situation very seriously. For example, "Zombie Kill of the Week",...who's even keeping tabs? It's funny but ridiculously nonsensical. One of the rules mentioned is to "Enjoy the little things", which is fine for some cases but it does seem a little overblown if people are having contests on the best kill on a weekly basis.

Other than that however, the special/practical effects do look convincing for the budget as well as the gore. There's plenty of blood, gunshots, wisecracks and zombies. Perhaps the only other thing that some gore hounds may not like is that there are not enough victims in the movie. Yes, there are people who die in the movie but a lot of the story revolves around the main characters mentioned prior. This may leave some viewers who enjoy the gore a little starved of their usual intake. The poster is also a little deceiving because nobody uses a chainsaw in this movie. But there are things that make up for that (kind of). It's not abundant but there are a couple of special cast appearances throughout the movie. There's one of Amber Heard as one of Columbus' neighbors and an extended cameo of Bill Murray playing himself. It's interesting though to hear Murray reference a few of his own works just to break the fourth wall.

Always follow the given guidelines
The last two components to look at are the cinematography and music. Michael Bonvillain was the director of photography for this project. Although there are areas that look like a lot of other zombie films, Bonvillain does get some good shots of landscape to give the setting some scope. Bonvillain has proven his talent before in Tom Berenger's Sniper 3 (2004). Instead of bright colors here, he has a lot of gray colors to emphasize the lack of life, which also helps the colorful characters stand out. As for music, rock enthusiast David Sardy composed the film score. Prior to this, Sardy only had composed music for 21 (2008) but would later do bigger projects like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012). All in which Sardy uses a familiar sound of hard rock guitars to indicate his unique score signature. Here is no different; Sardy mixes aggressive guitar chords with organic orchestra compositions to create one interesting score. At times it sounds like it belongs to the horror genre with string stings, other times it's comedy with banjo like cues and other times drama using lengthy chord progressions. It's a weird score for a weird movie. Case in point.

Other than not having enough victims on screen and some absurdly dumb humor (at times), this horror comedy is a fun watch and not just for one time. The characters are written with distinguished funny personalities, the violence is abundant, the camerawork is competent and the film score is wildly experimental but surprisingly appropriate.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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