“The sound of that porcelain hitting her head,” gushes director Ruben Fleischer on the commentary as Jesse Eisenberg cold-cocks Amber Heard with a chunk of toilet, “is a sound that’s very satisfying.”
“Part of the joy of zombie movies,” enthuses Rhett Reese, co-writer, “is the killing.” “This is my favourite shot, actually – I love that reflection shot,” glows Fleischer as the camera traces geek-faced Mike White’s ogling gaze through a window to Emma Stone’s ass while she crawls on a garage forecourt.
You can almost taste the glee on this chattrack. Sure, Zombieland doesn’t boast the most original of movie recipes. It’s dystopian. It’s postapocalyptic. It’s a zombie movie (duh...), road movie, buddy movie, geek-love story. Imagine a rather messy mash-up of Superbad, The Road and Diary Of The Dead and you should have the measure of Fleischer’s flick. But if its erupting geysers of grue don’t get your joy glands tingling, the gags will: Zombieland is about as much fun as you can have at the end of the world.
Kept up with the ongoing debates on whether zombies should run or shuffle? Zombieland n its preference with no fuss, quickly establishing the primacy of pace and squandering no time on backstory or build-up. A fearful geek-boy with IBS, Eisenberg’s Columbus has rules for living in zombie-fied America, the first being “Cardio”. Keep fit and you can outrun flesh-munchers, he tells us, advice serving as swift set-up for one of a squillion deliciously non-PC gags: “Fatties go first.” With plotting and gag-attack style in sync, the movie stacks ’em up and keeps ’em coming fast.
Added flavour kicks in as Columbus meets Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee, the redneck who sets the “standard of not-to-be-fucked-with”. The duo head down the road, they pick up Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock and Emma Stone’s Wichita, survivalist sisters with a few “trust issues”. Plotwise that’s about it, but you can discern subtextual sweeteners if you must: the four are a surrogate family and the film’s an odd-quartet fable hinged on youth’s growing pains (“It’s tough growing up in Zombieland.” “It’s tough growing up.”).
But subtexts make no undue claims on your focus here, the flavour residing in the relish. Fun is indulged with wilful abandon. Trash a shop? Bring it on. Bust a zombie’s ugly head with a duelling banjo? Knock ’em dead. Well, dead again. Fancy a cameo from A Big- Name Comedy Hero? Sign him up. Rarely has a post-apocalyptic flick been so appealingly unhinged in its pursuit of pleasure.
Talking of which, feast your eyes, because Zombieland looks quite the picture postcard on Blu-ray. Pavements and roads are so clear, you can almost count the grains of grit in them. Depth and keenness of contrast amplify the Niagaras of blood – a set-trashing episode in a store explodes in a satisfying symphony of colour and texture.
The disc’s extras are fuelled by similarly high spirits. A top-quality PiP track boasts storyboards and well-stacked cast/crew interviews, giving the lowdown on how they hurled that poor lady through her windscreen and why Tallahassee is so sweet on Twinkies.
The chattrack’s a joy too, with Fleischer, Harrelson, Eisenberg and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick riffing off one another to dish favourite scenes and inside stories – including Harrelson’s convincing worship of said Comedy Hero. Stone and Breslin are missed on the commentary but they busy themselves elsewhere, both adding value to half an hour of Making Ofs and chatting about the “Emmagail” bond on the PiP option.
Gore FX are also tended to with passion on the docs: “We spent a lot of time really researching and discussing things like syphilis, mad cow disease and Ebola, and saw some really gnarly research photos of the way the disease manifests,” Fleischer enthuses, his passion for decomposition proving worryingly infectious.
The thick spread of fun extends to the trailers, usually completists-only space-fillers. Here, Eisenberg and Harrelson dish mock advice in response to viewer queries, like how to fell zombies with the minimum of blood. “What’s wrong with a ton of blood?” Harrelson deadpans, before offering, “Nothing says massive head trauma like a bowling ball…”
Irreverence is everywhere, film and disc sharing a healthy disregard for the dystopian doldrums. Indeed, Columbus’ 32nd rule, “Enjoy the little things”, might well double as Fleischer’s favoured angle. If you found The Road too dour, this is the end-of-days movie for you: one that doesn’t let a little apocalypse disturb the pleasure of a tummyload of Twinkies, the high of a hit on a superstar’s bong or the satisfaction entailed by finding a nice, safe spot to go for a number two.
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