Movie Review: Zombieland

Using the template established by 28 Days Later, and bouncing off a little Shaun of the Dead, the new movie Zombieland gives us a fun-filled romp across a zombie-filled American West.

What more do you need, really?

Well, if you’re The Boy, a lot more. I had a hard time getting him to see this one. The potential for stupid was huge, and director Fleischer, along with writers Reese and Wernick, don’t have a big dossier. I kind of blanked on Woody Harrelson—whom he actually knows from a bunch of movies at this point—and while I remembered Jesse Eisenberg from Adventureland, I had forgotten that Emma Stone was his love interest in that movie, as well. Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine rounds out the core cast.

But he doesn’t usually go see movies because of the actors anyway.

But I persuaded him and he loved it. It’s a brisk movie, just an hour-and-a-half which is pretty solidly plotted, and mostly pretty light for a post-apocalyptic movie. It dispenses with a number of the genre traditions set up by Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to good end. It’s not real scary, despite a few good shocks in the beginning, but it is massively gory.

Possibly the goriest I’ve seen this year. Possibly the goriest last year, too.

The gore is very sincerely done and well-executed. For a relatively low-budget movie, it does a very convincing job of gore-spewing and head-smashing and so on.

If you’re squeamish, in other words, steer clear.

Anyway, the plot basically concerns Eisenberg as an unlikely survivor who crosses path with the more macho Harrelson as they journey to their respective homes. Harrelson’s character likes to call everyone by their home town, so Eisenberg becomes Columbus, while he’s Tallahassee. Stone and Breslin are Witchita and Little Rock, respectively.

Columbus, formerly a shut-in, has managed to survive by compiling a simple list of rules he always follows. Things like strapping on the seatbelt and being extra-cautious of bathrooms—the latter being a virtual zombie movie cliché. These give the movie a nice start, funny and in good contrast with Tallahassee’s more ad hoc style of engagement.

This is mostly dropped in the middle of the movie which may or may not have been a good idea. It resurfaces again toward the end. I have to say, even at ninety minutes, I actually thought the end of act 2 and the beginning of act 3 was kind of a drag.

The movie is really well plotted up to this point. There’s a gag bit in the middle which is hilarious but seems to end the movie’s drive.

Still it all ends well enough, and there were a lot of ending clichés avoided as well. Where Shaun of the Dead ends with an excellent (but very standard) zombie beatdown, this stays true to it’s own feel, which is nice.

I’m being vague about details because a lot of the delight of this movie comes from its originality, and the light character arcs which manage to be pretty good despite being very light.

If you can get past the (over the top) gore, you can have yourself a good time.

Cinematic Titanic’s Legacy of Blood

Episode 4 of the new riff delivery system that is Cinematic Titanic was made available for download yesterday, and I dutifully downloaded from EZ Takes and burned a DVD.

We watched this 1971 horror mess with the good humor of Joel, Trace, Frank, Josh and Mary Jo. And Josh was on fire this time, I must say.

The story is a creepy “rich man’s relatives gather in his possibly haunted house to collect their inheritance…if they survive” kinda deal with a creepy incest subplot and lots and lots and lots of talking.

It’s sort of Manos: The Hands of Fate without all that searing white-hot action.

You know how bad this movie is because the cast is actually all-pro, including some folks still working today. Faith Domergue, the maelstrom’s #1 pointy-breasted poster girl, for example, is one of the first to get killed. And the seemingly immortal John Carradine plays the, uh, dead guy.

But the cast is rounded out with hard-working TV actors, like Ivy Bethune who had a bit part in this year’s Get Smart, and muscle-man Buck Kartalian who has been on “ER” and “How I Met Your Mother”. Brooke Mills plays the absolutely stunning crazy chick in serious lust with her creepy brother.

John Russell was a western veteran, winding his career down with Pale Rider, as was John Smith, star of “Laramie”. Jeff Morrow was last seen (in the riff world) with Faith Domergue in This Island Earth. (Her character is identified as “Veronica” but the credits have her as “Victoria”.)

And then there’s Merry Anders, who I’d bet money one of my parents worked with after she left the business. (One thing about living in L.A. is that a lot of former actors settle here even after they retire. And most of them die right around here, too.)

Anyway, I’ve noticed a pattern with the CT movies, which is that they start off blazing, and this one is no exception. At the beginning, the end, and a few spots in the middle, the laughs come so fast you either have to rewind or commit to watch again.

At the same time, there are a few lags, like the badness of the movie bogs down the riffers.

There are probably fewer lags in this than in the previous three films. The sketches are starting to hit the mark pretty consistently, though there could be a few more, and the ones they have could be longer. The timing is improving, as we suspected it would. There’s a more natural rhythm; everyone seems to be getting more comfortable working together.

The Boy was less than enthusiastic about watching, saying the old stuff (MST3K) was funnier. But he laughed a lot and slapped his thigh more than once; I think he just misses the puppets.

I’m not missing them as much as I used to, but the “plot” of the show is trickling out excruciatingly slowly. Apparently the crew has been captured and sent forward in time (or maybe just abducted by aliens?) who need their riffing talents to save humanity.

What’s good about the new set-up is the use of the silhouette approach to rig up sets that would be otehrwise challenging. For example, in this episode, it looks like there’s a tank to one side of the movie room.

This episode stands out because, I think, it’s probably the most re-watchable episode to date. I’m not 100% sure of this, but this is the first one where I was thinking “I could watch this again” while the episode was running.

So, good job to the CT crew, and keep the shows coming!