From its opening credits sequence – an ultra-slow-motion montage set to the tune of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” - to the riotous and oddly moving climax, Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland offers an exhilarating and refreshingly original take on an increasingly tired genre. Set in the months following a zombie plague that has wiped out much of humanity, we are introduced to “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg), a lonely geek who’s many neurosis have been the keys to his survival. Insular to the extreme, Columbus has been holed-up in his Austin, Texas college dorm since the outbreak began, and, seeing as how he’s never really been close to anyone in his entire life, didn’t really miss not having other people around until recently. He decides to hit the road, and journey back east to Columbus, Ohio, where he hopes to find his equally paranoid and anti-social parents still amongst the living.
En route, he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) – an affable sociopath with a penchant for zombie killing and Hostess Twinkies– and the duo decide to travel together. While on a quest for one of Tallahassee’s beloved snack cakes, the two run into a pair of grifters in the guise of Wichita (Emma Stone) and her younger sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The girls trick the boys, and steal their weapons and Tallahassee’s tricked-out Cadillac Escalade, and Tallahassee wants payback. It’s not long before the two party’s paths cross again, and, once again, the girls get the upper hand. This time, however, they agree to “let” Columbus and Tallahassee travel with them; destination, Pacific Playland – a Los Angeles theme-park the girls believe is one of the last places in the country not overrun by zombies.
Comparisons to Shaun of the Dead are inevitable, and, seeing as how the two films are so similar thematically, well-founded. Still, Zombieland’s look, style, and humor differ so greatly from the British phenom, that simply writing it off as the “American version of Shaun of the Dead” would be downright irresponsible . While most of Shaun’s laughs were generated by its character’s plucky resilience and decidedly “British” demeanor in the face of Armageddon, Zombieland’s characters seem a bit more effected by their circumstances, with Columbus’ paranoia and Tallahassee’s borderline-suicidal behavior– something that’s explained in a rather touching fashion later during the obligatory “bonding sequence” – serving as the catalysts for most of the laughs, here. Shaun’s humor stylings are admittedly a bit more sophisticated than the more straightforward gags of Zombieland, but that doesn’t make it any less funny; just funny in a different way. As with Shaun of the Dead, the undead denizens of Zombieland are relegated to the background, serving as the occasional joke-fodder while the relationships between the characters taking center stage. Sadly, as with Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland has trouble maintaining the laughs throughout, but Fleischer’s direction and some nifty editing keeps the action moving along at a fast enough pace to gloss over most of the lulls in the laugh department, while the exceptional amount of blood and viscera will get the hardened gorehounds smiling when the jokes fail to.
Zombieland comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Sony, and, as is the case with the majority of Sony’s treatment of new films, the package is par excellence. The film is presented in a gorgeous, 2.39:1 1080p transfer that is the very definition of pristine. The image pops off of the screen with tremendous depth and dimension, aided by deep blacks, and rich, vibrant colors. Detail is above average, with textures and objects looking so real you want to reach out and grab them. This transfer is a welcome respite from the flat, pea-soup green aesthete of the current crop of horror flicks; as a matter of fact, I can’t recall blood looking any “redder” than it does here!
The Dolby DTS 5.1 soundtrack is equally superb, with reference quality bass, crystalline highs, and a clear and organic dialogue track mixed right up front and center. Surround use is in high abundance, with nice atmospheric effects scattered across the soundfield, from the barely audible chirping of crickets to bombastic, percussive gunfire. Overall this is yet another example of why Sony’s amongst the best in the BD business.
Extras include a fantastic commentary track featuring stars Harrelson, Eisenberg, Fleischer, and the film’s writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. It’s a lively and spirited track that’s both informative and highly entertaining stuff, filled with inside tidbits and laugh-out-loud funny production stories. Also featured are a pair of making-of featurettes (HD) In Search of Zombieland and Zombieland is Your Land with the former focusing on the origins of the film while the latter offers a brief look at the visual style and set design.
Other extras include seven deleted scenes (HD), Visual Effects Progression Scenes (HD), a bunch of funny theatrical promos/PSAs for the film (HD), and trailers for several other Sony releases (HD). Rounding out the extras are BD-Live functionality, and a “bonus” digital copy on DVD.
Zombieland is a funny, fast-paced, and bloody comedy for people who love horror movies. Or is it a horror movie for people who love comedies? Either way, it’s bound to please just about everyone as it’s got a great sense of humor, a really impressive and novel visual style, and enough gore (and even a few effective scares) to satiate the most jaded of zombie film purists. Sony’s fantastic Blu-ray presentation offers reference quality video and audio, as well as a host of HD extras, making recommending adding this great flick to your BD library that much easier.