Zombie fever spreads to the cinema

“Zombieland” shows the funny side of the zombie apocalypse.

Clown zombie in Columbia Pictures' ZOMBIELAND.

Clown zombie in Columbia Pictures’ ZOMBIELAND.

Tony Libera

âÄúZombielandâÄù DIRECTED BY: Ruben Fleischer STARRING: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone. RATED: R SHOWING: Area theaters WhoeverâÄôs doing public relations for zombies these days is knocking it out of the park. From books (âÄúPride and Prejudice and Zombies âÄú) to band names (Zombie Season), movies (âÄúDød snøâÄù) to themed bars (Donny DirkâÄôs Zombie Den ), these ambulatory cadavers are saturating every part of our culture. For whatever reason, the fantastic zombie plague is spreading, and Friday it reaches theaters with the release of âÄúZombieland,âÄù an entry int o filmic zombiedom thatâÄôs as funny as it is bloody. Oftentimes, zombie movies will take a slow approach when it comes to an introduction, building up characters so we can watch them fall and augmenting the tension by drawing out the emergence of a threat that we know is coming. Not âÄúZombieland.âÄù The film fades from black and weâÄôre instantly thrown into a world thatâÄôs been destroyed by ravenous zombies, the unfortunate contractors of some insidious virus (H1N1?). A disembodied voice (Jesse Eisenberg, âÄúAdventurelandâÄù ) calmly explains the details, and then we see an incredibly graphic and hilarious montage of zombie mayhem set to MetallicaâÄôs metal opus âÄúFor Whom the Bell Tolls.âÄù The deaths are so over the top and so unapologetically violent that viewers wonâÄôt be able to help but laugh. As the narrator gains corporeal form, we find that heâÄôs a scrawny, antisocial geek âÄî the last person youâÄôd expect to survive a zombie apocalypse. He credits his long life to a list of hyper-anal rules heâÄôs devised; among them is having good cardio and always wearing a seatbelt. Eisenberg once again excels in the Cera -patented role of lovable, awkward youth, exuding quirkiness and humor at every turn âÄî but one has to wonder if heâÄôs growing weary of his niche. After a few run-ins with the brain-eaters, Eisenberg encounters Woody HarrelsonâÄôs character, a zombie-slaying cowboy who drives a pimped-out Cadillac and insists on anonymity, choosing the pseudonym Tallahassee (Eisenberg becomes Columbus, as in Ohio). Harrelson, who hasnâÄôt been overtly likable since he played a brain-dead hick on âÄúCheers ,âÄù is thoroughly enjoyable as a gleeful zombie killer on a never-ending quest for the worldâÄôs last remaining Twinkie. Tallahassee takes pleasure in his art and, like any true artist, is constantly searching for new ways to expand his medium. He maims, mutilates and bludgeons with joyful ingenuity bordering on sadism. Harrelson wrenches away some laughs but ultimately walks away looking like a badass thanks to his redneck bravado and climactic against-the-odds shootout. But what is a zombie comedy without a little romance? Enter Wichita (Emma Stone , âÄúSuperbad âÄú), a mascara-laden double-crosser whoâÄôs taking her kid sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, âÄúLittle Miss SunshineâÄù) to an amusement park in California. Obviously, the park is going to be zombie-ridden, but Wichita is just so attractive to the virginal Columbus (thatâÄôs right, Eisenberg is yet again playing a character whose virginity is central to the story) that heâÄôll do anything to woo her and subsequently tags along. At this point the story quickly steps into formulaic territory, with fairly telegraphed plot points and standard romantic turns. Still, the characters are so likeable and the zombie slaughtering so joyous to watch that itâÄôs hard not to take pleasure in âÄúZombieland.âÄù Plus, thereâÄôs a cherry on top: an amazing cameo âÄî one for the ages âÄî by one of the ineffable icons of comedic cinema. Fans of âÄúCaddyshack âÄú and/or French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre should be sure to stay past the credits. As the bloodbath comes to an end, many laughs have been had, and those no-good zombies have been killed with everything from a piano to garden sheers. âÄúShaun of the DeadâÄù still reigns as the zom-com king, but âÄúZombielandâÄù takes a noble stab at regicide. 3.5 of 5 stars