I went into this film expecting to be horribly grossed out and not at all amused. Turns out, I was about two-thirds right with that guess. The good news is, if you can survive the first ten minutes or so (blood, gore, and tremendous violence to the tune of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”!), then you can manage the rest of the movie without much trouble. There’s still an icky compound fracture close-up, and the occasional spewing of blood and guts, but nothing gets any worse than those first few minutes.
And it wasn’t as horribly unamusing as I expected, either. It isn’t a, um, “realistic” zombie movie like 28 Days Later, which helps it be funny. No one worried about having enough to eat or enough ammuntion; there’s always a working vehicle and a safe place to sleep. Watching people struggle with issues like that isn’t really very laugh-inducing, so the filmmakers wisely avoided them.
What they don’t avoid is the gore. And the flesh-eating monsters. They went the disease route — there’s a zombie virus that makes you feverish, delirious, and so incredibly hungry that the person sitting next to you suddenly looks like a delicious meal. Interestingly, the zombies don’t seem to eat each other — maybe the virus makes people taste bad — so like 28 Days Later, there’s hope that humanity can survive while the flesh-eaters starve.
However, they’re too busy showing the light-hearted side of post-apocalyptic life to talk about such things directly. When Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, The Village), meet, about the first thing Tallahassee wants to know is when was the last time Columbus got lucky. They have city names because those are the places they’re going — Tallahassee says it’s better not to get too attached by using real names and such. It’s fun to say Tallahassee, but it’s a pain to type.
|Baseball, post-apocalypse style|
When they meet two other survivors (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, My Sister’s Keeper), they get christened Wichita and Little Rock, respectively, though since they’re supposed to be sisters travelling together, they really should’ve ended up with the same name. But even with only four people left alive and coherent, that probably would’ve been too confusing. Anyway, the sisters have what Columbus calls “trust issues”, and that’s a glorious understatement. You’d think that 99% of the world turning into raving flesh-eaters would make it easier to trust those who aren’t trying to eat your brains, but apparently not.
But Wichita is a pretty young woman, and Columbus being a geeky young man, he’s ready to stick with her in spite of all the times she and little sis threaten to shoot him and Tallahassee. This motley group ends up tracking a (completely unfounded) rumor of a zombie-free area to a California amusement park, where the electricity is miraculously still working perfectly and being scared of clowns is no longer a silly phobia.
In between, there’s enough blood and guts to fill a slaughterhouse, and a few actual good laughs, which I really wasn’t expecting. They’re all typical survivor-movie types — the obnoxious little kid, the nerd scared of his own shadow, the tough girl the nerd pines for, and the crazy guy that kills zombies gleefully in his search for Twinkies. Okay, the Twinkies part isn’t usual, and that’s true of the characters, too. They fit certain patterns, but they don’t just fit those patterns. Tallahassee even cries. So it gets three idols. It’s good solid entertainment, for those who don’t have a weak stomach, and clearly everyone had fun making it, which is about all you can expect of a comedy.