08 February 2011


Twelve Things about Zombieland
(A post for "Women in Horror" Month humbly submitted to the manly man blog From Midnight with Love--because this Midnight Warrior knows whom she'd want to call "General" when the War against Zombies begins)

12. I was going to start with: "If you like Scream, you'll like Zombieland . . ."

But now I think it's more accurate to say: "If you love Randy Meeks, you'll love 'Columbus'!"

11. We've feared zombies for as long as we've feared the dead, but the zombies of the digital age are extra special. They usually kick off a nasty apocalypse that sends us back to living in small, tightly-knit communities where we must rely on our neighbours to survive: which is both a nightmare and a secret dream to people who make a lot of "close" friends through the escapist Internet.

They are especially horrifying to an introvert like our narrator "Columbus," who used to spend most of his time trying to avoid people. But now that he is forced to try to avoid zombies, he finds he really misses his fellow humans.

10. You might have noticed our hero's "geographical" name. Well, why shouldn't the last survivors in "Zombieland" have land names? (They're worlds better than zombie names, you know!) Columbus first meets Tallahassee, his complete opposite, and then the two scheming sisters Wichita and Little Rock. There's a flashback to a pre-apocalypse scene with his neighbour, but he only knows her--and addresses her--by her apartment number: 406.

9. Well, okay, one character gets to keep his name: Bill Murray cameos as himself and he is so made of awesome sauce that I'm not worthy to say another word about him.

8. And now to make this review relevant to "Women in Horror" Month! Let's start with something totally excellent.

My favourite female has got to be 406, who turns the Final Girl formula on its head. She falls asleep normal, if unknowingly contaminated, and wakes up ravenous for human flesh . . .

The video's quality is crappy,
but the scene is still all that and more.

The way she goes after Columbus had me screaming my lungs out like anything--even as I inwardly marveled at the clever, completely effective reversal of the traditional Horror roles of Chaser and Chased.

7. I'm going to be neutral about the admittedly badass Sister Cynthia Knickerbocker.

You see what I mean, I hope? ;-)

6. So 406 is the high point and Sister Cynthia could go either way. What about the two most important "women" in the film?

Now, I wanted to like Wichita and Little Rock, who could have totally helped out my recurring refrain that girls do not get in the way of adventures, but enhance them. But now I'm just pissed and looking for a way to blame them on Bella Swan. Every frame these two self-entitled princesses were in reminded me of a good friend's favourite truth-about-women quote: "Without men, civilisation would last until the next oil change." (P.J. O'Rourke)

Yes, they're tough, smart, loyal to each other, and willing to do everything necessary to survive. They also owe every practical advantage they have to some hardworking man they had to manipulate it from, and remain incredibly dependent on the two male leads for the rest of the movie.

5. It just gets better, too--or if you prefer, worse. After the girls dump their protectors for the third time, they head straight for a theme park and power it up in the middle of the night--lights, calliope music and all--knowing fully well that zombies are attracted to bright lights and noise. Never mind the knowledge that they're living in the middle of a freaking zombie wasteland. Did they not think there would be consequences?

When Tallahassee sees the theme park overrun by hundreds of zombies, he remarks lightly, "I think they might actually require our assistance this time." It's the understatement of all civilisation.

4. You can bet that the filmmakers milk that amusement park setting for all it's worth. The ride or attraction each character chooses reveals a lot about him . . . or her. Tallahassee, their best zombie killer, gets in some creative kills on every ride he tries, before he ends up in a shooting booth in which the best prize is survival. The extremely cautious Columbus, whose phobia-inspired list has proven as good as his companion's guns and bravado, learns the difference between real dangers and fake ones in the haunted house. And our two girls make a desperate bid for safety on a tower ride that sends them several stories into the air--where they shoot the control box so that it can't bring them back down, promptly run out of ammo, and have to wait like true damsels in distress for the men to rescue them . . . again.

In case you're keeping count: Tallahassee and Columbus do save their pretty asses; it was Tallahassee who gave Little Rock the shooting lesson that let her take out the control box; and the engineers who made Pacific Playland possible were likely all men.

(Okay I threw that last one in just to get a reaction.)

3. The one thing I absolutely hated about this movie was the vandalism. There must be a more creative way--heck, a more human way--to express all the emotions that arise from an apocalypse than smashing a beautifully decorated souvenir store just to let off some steam.

Zombies may be rotten to the core, but even they don't vandalise anything and laugh. A point to ponder.

2. Besides, in Zombieland, every survivor has the status of a castaway who gets another chance to go back to the wreck for supplies. You don't see any wanton wreck wasting in Robinson Crusoe or The Swiss Family Robinson--not because their characters lack edge, but because their characters have common sense. In a world where supplies don't last, you should know enough to take care of what's available to you . . . and to any other survivors who might come across them after you're done taking what you need.

But I think the head vandal Tallahassee learns his lesson at the end, when one of his bad shots inadvertently blows up the one thing he has been craving since we first meet him.

1. It is that sweet treat and its absurd elusiveness in a land that is closer to hell without it which inspires me to close this post with a question:

What's your Twinkie?

Image Source: Zombieland poster


Red said...

Nice post and I love this movie (especially Columbus!) Though I have to say I disagree your 3rd point about vandalism. I was sad to see some of that chotchki stuff get destroyed but I think if I lived in a world where pretty much everyone I knew and loved was dead and every day was a fight, I'd probably destroy some stuff too. And at least it was just cheap souvenirs instead of something irreplaceable.

Avid Reader said...

This movie cracked me up, especially the Murray cameo. I do agree that the amusement park scene was absurd and I was kinda pissed at those girls. Seriously, no zombies are going to notice the amusement park? I think my twinkie might have to be almost joys, love 'em.

Enbrethiliel said...


Red: I grant that I'd probably smash up a store or two myself, at the beginning, just to see what it feels like. (It could be cathartic, you know?) But I really didn't like that scene in the souvenir store. The place was just too beautiful. To me, they might as well have shot up a church. =(

(Yes, I know I'm taking it really seriously. I'll lighten up soon! Thanks for coming back.)

Avid Reader: It is my compliment to the humour in this movie that I find Bill Murray the least funny thing in it!

I get that Wichita wanted Little Rock to enjoy Pacific Playland while Little Rock was still a little girl . . . but really, couldn't they have waited for day time? And perhaps turned on one ride at a time? Of course, if they did, we wouldn't have that really cool sequence . . . =P

Dauvit Balfour said...

I think there might have been cries of "stupid bitches" when the girls went to Pacific Playland the first time I saw it, but I love the movie so much I have successfully overlooked its flaws.

Speaking of flaws, nearly all of the deleted scenes were ones with just the girls, which shows that, as much hot as Emma Stone is, it really was Columbus and Tallahassee that carried the movie.

Most of the stuff with Bill Murray was improvised or off the cuff, since they were surprised to get him to even come on set (which was in GA).

I was totally cool with the vandalism for two reasons. First, it was funny as hell. Second, I completely understand that animalistic urge to destroy something in order to let off steam. I've punched a wall or two in my time.

Excellent post. Of course, this is one of my favorite comedies of all time, so I'm biased. Great fodder for a Friday night with brownies and margaritas.

Dauvit Balfour said...

Oh, right. Twinkies. Does it have to be food? I want to say an Allman Brothers song. I can't think of a food or drink right now.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, I guess I'll have to be the pooper of the "It's an apocalypse, let's break something!" party. =P

(Hey, every party needs one!)

So you have brownies with your margaritas? I've never had them together, although now that I think about it, there's no reason they couldn't be friends. I'm more traditional about my movie snacks, washing down pop corn or nachos with my countless (fruity) cocktails.

Which gives me the perfect springboard to say that, yes, I think your "twinkie" has to be food. I mean, if you have a CD, a player, and a way to keep recharging the batteries, you'll still have your music, right? (But now you're making me wonder whether Zombieland cheats a little by letting the power stay up. Then again, it's a comedy--and a hilarious one--so I'm not writing up a formal complaint.)

Sullivan McPig said...

my twinkies = books!!
I'd try to save as many as possible.
Because books = knowledge

Paul Stilwell said...

I know my Tallahassee quest in a post-apocalypse would be for coffee - and I would prize it and keep it wherever I found it. But of course on top of that would have to be the added quest for making hot water. And I suppose I would prize any cans of evaporated milk, since cream would be hard to come by - if there are any cows left - or goats. I could go for just about any type of confection (minus toffee), even stuff with coconut, so its hard to decide on a "Twinkie" there.

I'm one of those slightly/overly-sensitive viewers who found the store-smashing scene triggering the wrong nerve. To me it felt impromptu and indulgent and somehow out of place. It just felt...mean. Though the music (it was Mozart right?) seemed somehow right. Moreover, in a story, the viewer doesn't really want to see the good guys letting off steam; it's not conducive to generating sympathy. Or if they do let off steam, it shouldn't be given enough time for an entire sequence.

Though in the store-smashing scene it didn't really seem like they were letting off steam so much as getting their jollies through smashing artifacts. Which is mean.

I know, not-being-mean is very un-Tallahasee-like, at least on the surface.

Paul Stilwell said...

Not to make any point of contention with those who like the scene. I friend I watched it with found the scene very funny. I can get that.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: I know what you mean! The four main characters aren't big readers and they don't run into an archetypal wise man with a library, but I agree that if the world as we know it suddenly ended in that way, I'd be all about the preservation of books.

Stilwell: My brother found the same scene hilarious as well. =P But I'm glad you left that comment because you used the word I didn't even know I was looking for: mean.

And the fact that they destroy irreplaceable artefacts and not just cheap souvenirs becomes even worse, given the fact that they are the last potential defenders of civilisation left in the world. I've compared it to smashing up a church, but it would be more accurate to compare it to burning down Sully's library.

In this light, the girls' decision to "let off steam" at Pacific Playland is actually the better one. (Wow. Who would have thought?)

Entropy said...

I am usually not crazy about Zombie movies but I admit that I really liked this one. I liked almost as much as I liked Hellboy! Great 12 things!

Enbrethiliel said...


I started watching with really good expectations and finished feeling like I had spent my time wisely. =)

Thanks for reading and liking!

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh yes, and I was disappointed (some may roll their eyes to hear it) that the sister wasn't in traditional habit. Her calm fearlessness would have been far more convincing.

I've been trying to put something together for The Book of Eli post and before you posted this was thinking about Robinson Crusoe and how The Road Warrior is one of the best examples of the "saving the wreckage" that you reference.

Very much agree with the burning the library analogy.

The Mike said...

Ha! Some say general, I say guy who needs people to hide behind. :)

I'm with you on the women in this one, who too often seem like the mouse on a string in front of a cat. The relationship between Columbus and Witchita is also Hollywood filler. And yes, the 406 scene is a definite high point. (Not just because Amber Heard is nice looking, either.)

But there's still a lot to like on a fun level. It's a great party horror flick, but not much for deeper times.

My Twinkie? If we're staying in the food/drink department, I'd probably be going out of my way to find as much Vanilla Coke as possible. Enjoy the little things, indeed.

Great stuff!

Enbrethiliel said...


Stilwell: I think her name--Sister Cynthia Knickerbocker--says it all. =P

The Mike: Oh, I'd love to watch this in a party! Did you hear that there are plans for a Zombieland 2? =D

Every time I watch the 406 scene, I get tense. It doesn't matter that I've seen it dozens of times: it still gets to me.

Dauvit Balfour said...

The movie was originally going to be a tv show. It got canned before they started filming, so they took the material for the first two episodes and made a film. It's far better this way, and since they had about 14 episodes worth of material, there's no shortage of possibilities for a sequel.

My twinkie would probably be a hot grilled hotdog. That may just be the winter version of me longing for spring, but it'll do.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, at least we have The Walking Dead! =D

I wonder if they'll have a celebrity appear as himself in every movie. That would be cool . . . but it could also get old fast.

And I just realised that I didn't mention my Twinkie! But you all know it's Ribena, right? =P