Friday, October 2, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 2: Zombieland

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

The horror-comedy is a strange bird. It is a definite sub-genre with a well-established canon of classics: Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Dead Alive, the Troma productions. Yet despite its rabid cult following it often fails to catch on with the general public. Just look at the box office performance of 2006's underrated Slither and this year's Diablo Cody/Megan Fox team-up Jennifer's Body (I swear that this one will find a following on DVD, just you wait) to see that these movies often have trouble breaking through to Joe Popcorn. The judgment that can be made is that people are often not secure with horror in their comedy or comedy in their horror. A horror comedy necessitates an element of gallows humor, that just goes with the territory, but of course dark comedy isn't for everyone and one needs only look at most modern horror movies (remakes/reboots aside) to see that they might have trouble not taking themselves too seriously (torture porn, which looks to be on the way out, doesn't mix well with laughs, dark or otherwise).

This is why I think Zombieland should be a hit. While one might think that the presence of zombies might bring an element of darkness/pure existential terror to a movie, Zombieland decides to ignore that idea entirely. This movie is as much a horror comedy as Ghostbusters is, insofar as the two are about a bunch of misfits battling the undead. There's dark humor yes, but this is about 90% comedy, 10% horror. The movie this will get a lot of comparisons to is of course the great Shaun of the Dead, but Shaun is a funny, legit zombie movie masquerading as a spoof. Look at it this way: Shaun of the Dead is an homage to the Romero zombie movies and in doing so actually becomes one towards the end. Ghostbusters is a movie about ghosts, but it isn't the Shining. Zombieland is a comic romp whose plot concerns surviving the zombie apocalypse, but it's a comic romp first. It's also hilarious.

Our heroes are Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, in the role he was born to play) and Columbus (Jesse "Don't call me Michael Cera" Eisenberg), two survivors traveling cross-country and battling hordes of the walking dead along the way. Tallahassee is a bad ass mofo, Columbus is a nerd who seems to have read Max Brooks' complete oeuvre. They meet a pair of sisters Wichita (Emma Stone, Jonah Hill's love interest from Superbad, and now mine as well) and Little Rock (Abigail "Little Miss Sunshine" Breslin) and together team up to enjoy the end of the world and try to stay alive at the same time. By ditching the scares and dread of the typical zombie flick, Zombieland gets to the heart of the daydream wish-fulfillment that the coming of the undead plague could bring: the end of the world as we know it just might be a blast. I highly recommend you check this one out.

Verdict: 80 Congos