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by Sarah Dawson / 19.11.2009

On Sarah’s List of Favourite Things to Do on a Weekday Morning, hovering around number two at any given time is likely to be “watching a horror flick in an entirely empty cinema”. So at Monday’s preview of Zombieland, it would have been pretty hard to disappoint me. My horror standards are low. If it involves maggots, peeling flesh, cannibalism or machetes, I’m there and I’m loving it. Indiscriminately.

So, having contextualised this review, I enjoyed Zombieland. But the extent to which my enjoyment can be attributed to my lack of discretion, rather than to the quality of the film remains a little unclear. So noting of my own lack of enthusiasm, I have to conclude I wasn’t, unlike some of the film’s delightful specimens of the undead, totally blown away.

It’s not strictly a horror. It’s a horror-comedy. A spoof. However I’ve always found this to be somewhat taxonomically tricky as it has, at least since the 70s, become nearly impossible to make (particularly zombie) horror without tongue planted firmly in cheek. The genre has camp at its core.

So the question is: how do you add irony to a genre that already includes titles like Zombie Strippers, or O.C. Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown, directed by people with names like Creep Creepersin, as earnest texts of the Zombie canon?


Briefly, the premise of the film: Quiet, unassuming Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) miraculously survives apocalypse, thanks more to his pedantry and neuroses than any kind of heroism. He teams up with man’s man, zombie-killer-supreme, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and two conniving girls, babe big sister, Wichita (Emma Stone) and cutie-pie, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). They all go on adventure to find the things most important to them, now that they are probably the last people left in America (read “the world”), including family, Twinkies and a theme park.

It has its moments of wittiness and, sure, it makes some interesting commentary on consumer culture, but it just seemed somehow strained. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I can’t find a zombie flick really entertaining unless the female lead signed their beer-stained casting contract at 2:00 am with one leg wrapped around a steel pole. I’m probably something of a purist, but Zombieland seemed a little tame to me. At times it felt a bit like the Disneyland version of a genre which is a little too racy or founded in crappiness for a mass audience, rather than providing the new “twist” to Zombie film it claims to do.

It was certainly fun. But fun in the way the teacup ride is fun, as opposed to the dodgy roller coaster erected in half an hour on the side of the road in Durban at Christmas time. I was mostly groaning with mild entertainment rather than cackling with evil pleasure.

I suppose it depends on what you’re into.

It has been endlessly compared to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, which I’m not sure is a fair setup for an audience. Shaun managed a deadpan humour and low-key, mundane subtlety that Zombieland doesn’t even aspire to. Zombieland’s comedy depends on creative zombie killing and cheeky referentiality. But isn’t that what all zombie movies are about?

On that note, I’m just dying to see Colin, which should be out soon. It made it to Cannes this year on (allegedly) a $70 budget, shot on a 10 year-old Panasonic camcorder and a cast gathered via Facebook.

That’s what I’m talking about.

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  1. tumi.j says:

    Smart, funny & informative – way to redeem yourself Sarah!!

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  2. Miss Sarah Dee says:

    Risen from the dead.

    Arrrrgh grr aargh.. (zombie noises)

    Wish my skin would stop falling off.

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  3. Jemima says:

    and sarah dawson = roger young

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