Picture America decimated, depleted of resources and utterly without hope. No, we’re not talking the aftermath of any particular administration, but rather the results of a mysterious plague that in the course of just two months has seemingly wiped out all but four normal Americans—who must team up if they’re going to survive and make it to a California amusement park which, legend has it, is the last zombie-free place in the nation.
That’s the utterly ridiculous premise of Zombieland, a new horror-comedy that puts pedal to the metal with the most comically offensive opening credits in years (depicting hilariously gross scenarios of zombies killing people in slow motion) and rarely lets up for the next 85 minutes. Starring the unlikely wonder team of Woody Harrelson in perhaps his most gonzo role ever (but without the vile meanness of Natural Born Killers) and nerdy art-film star Jesse Eisenberg (Roger Dodger, Adventureland) as two random survivors who specialize in entirely different ways of killing the undead, Zombieland is hilarious and disgusting fun for those who can handle it.
Trust me, you know who you are—and there’s enough of you out there to make this one of the biggest hits of the year, as this ought to play strong all the way through Halloween and finally put a nail in the coffin of the torture-porn Saw franchise. A big difference between Zombieland and Hollywood’s typical horror fare is that this one is played almost entirely for laughs: There is no misogynistic, leering focus on pointless and often nude female victims, and the well-drawn lead characters ultimately show genuine love and concern for each other as they realize the family bonds they create are the only possible ones they have left on the planet.
What makes Zombieland work on a level beyond mere guts, gore and goo is the fact that it also features two appealingly strong female performances by Emma Stone (Superbad) and the Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as sisters who double-cross our heroes time and again as everyone learns to fight for themselves at all costs. The distaff duo kick plenty of butt while lightening the film with occasional sweetness and emotional charm, a factor the film surprisingly possesses in the flashbacks to the characters’ formerly normal lives.
Ultimately, two other factors are destined to lift Zombieland to perpetual cult-favorite status: a brilliantly bizarre extended cameo by one of comedy’s all-time greatest actors (word of mouth will spread like wildfire on this part, so see it early) and a bravura set-piece final showdown at the amusement park that inventively shows that while Paul Simon once sang about 50 ways to leave your lover, there are at least 500 ways to kill a zombie.