11
Oct 09

The Zombie As Comic Stooge

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In 28 Days Later, Cilian Murphy’s character wakes up 28 days after a localised zombie apocalypse has occurred. He is our viewpoint stranger in a strange land, wandering through a deserted London trying to survive. Perhaps it is telling (though more likely a flaw) that the real bad guys in 28 Days Later are a squad of soldiers who want to rape the women in the gang, it is mans inhumanity to man (woman) writ large. But in 28 Days Later most of the infected kills are due to the lead characters general stupidity. Even with fast zombies, once you follow the basic rules of survival, you should probably be alright. And in 28 Days Later there is the spectre of rescue, the chance that safety exists somewhere else.

Zombieland has a very similar set-up to 28 Days Later, except our hyper neurotic lead has been surviving since day one. And whilst the film wrings plenty of humour out of his rules for survival (32 in full, though we only get to see about ten of them), it becomes clear that any organised person should be able to survive a zombie epidemic. And these are fast zombies too. Indeed the film gets pretty bored with its zombies pretty damn quickly. After an opening of dispatching zombies in all sorts of interesting ways, it settles into being a mismatched buddy film and finally a family romance. And all the better for it, as its a film whose characters engender so much good will that it would be a shame to see them eaten alive – even if that is what is supposed to happen in a zombie film. Indeed there is something really rather refreshing to find a bunch of misfits surviving and not really worrying about continuing th human race, or safeguarding humanity for the future. At this point, enjoying the little things is more than enough. And in a lot of ways that’s exactly what the film is. A remarkably slight string of sketches, tied together some well though out character stuff.

But those zombies… If the film has a flaw is that its zombies are, past the fifteen minute mark, never threatening. To the extent that you cannot believe that these are the only four (five) survivors. What I can believe though is that these characters are conspicuously smarter than those in 28 Days Later, they just refuse to do dumb horror movie stuff. Well with the exception of the final scenes where dumb horror movie stuff has to happen just to give the film a dramatic ending. And in the end watching Woody Harrelson letting rip with submachine guns on a rollercoaster is some kind of dramatic ending.

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