Time: 88 mins.
SYNOPSIS: After the world is taken over by zombies, a small group of survivors decides to band together to stay alive, which they do by following some very basic rules. In the end, their experiences bond them together, creating the family they've all been missing.
BOTTOM LINE: I can't really say what compelled me to want to watch this movie. I'm not a fan of horror films in general and usually don't care for the zombie sub-genre either. Though these days zombies are played for laughs more than scares and I guess the trailer was amusing enough to catch my eye. While not a straight up comedy, this film isn't exactly scary, though it is without a doubt bloody, gruesome and at times just plain gross. Granted if I encountered a zombie in real life I'd be scared shitless, but generally, though relentless, they aren't very bright. It's that quality used by our intrepid heroes to stay alive. That and a seemingly endless supply of bullets. Columbus (Eisenberg) is the geek, who learns to survive by following a well-crafted set of rules. The first 10-15 minutes of the film explains how he came to craft these survival guidelines in quite a clever and visually amusing way that had me hooked despite my previous stated misgivings.
As he attempts to move across the country, which is strewn with abandoned vehicles and dead bodies, he meets up with a few other survivors with agendas of their own. Columbus just wants to see if his family is still alive. Tallahassee (Harrelson) has lost everything he once cared for so he's merely taking his limitless rage and suffering out on every zombie he encounters. He doesn't care where he's going as long as he takes some zombies out along the way. And if he can find some Twinkies in between all the bloodshed all the better. Columbus is a bit wary, but beggars can't be choosers and Tallahassee proves in several encounters that he's a top notch zombie killer. Things become even more complicated when they run into two sisters, Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), with very big trust issues and an agenda that is non-negotiable.
The film flounders a bit as the foursome makes their way to Los Angeles (the girls decision), but it has some great moments as they get to know each other on the road trip. Eisenberg and Stone have good chemistry and their budding attraction as two of the last humans on Earth is sweet and awkward, as young love usually is. They give their stock characters great nuance and heart, which is rare for a film like this. Bill Murray's cameo, as himself, is priceless. Pure comic genius. Harrelson is clearly having a ball and Breslin gives her role spunk without being too annoying. How the film ends is no surprise and not as thrilling as I think the filmmakers hoped. Though our heroes are forced into an epic battle with the zombies, the undead, while ugly, just never come across as much of a real threat. While similar in tone to SHAWN OF THE DEAD, the zombies here only eat the other extras. The film loses momentum when it becomes clear no one is going to die, which is sort of the point of horror movies. If you need a high body count, this is not the film for you. If you'd like to watch a fun "road picture" that happens to feature putrifying corpses being killed in hilarious ways – Zombie Kill of the Week is brilliant – then you'll probably enjoy this apocalyptic ride.