Zombieland Review

Zombieland is all about rules. For instance, you do not run over a zombie once. That requires taking a chance that you missed. Instead, you implement “Double Tap,” a rule that reminds you to kill all zombies twice, just in case.

Zombieland has its share of great, even classic, undead elimination techniques. While it favors the shotgun to the head, let us not forget the “carnival ride to the body,” or “piano collapse” for possible contenders into the not-yet-invented Zombie Kill Hall of Fame.

For movie fans, they may also want to consider the soon to be cult classic “Bill Murray accidental shotgun to the chest,” in honor of the superbly funny (and still tender) cameo from one of film’s great comedians.

In fact, Bill Murray’s cameo, playing himself only dressed up like a zombie to avoid detection by the infected, is so hilarious, it rises the film to a higher plateau. While seeing Woody Harrelson grab a merry-go-round with one arm and kill the slobbering horde with an uzi is funny, would it be the laugh riot if Bill Murray had not warmed the audience up by using a vacuum in place of a proton pack from Ghostbusters? Maybe not.

Then again, this is a fantastic script from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. They craft memorable characters, all named after US cities. Jesse Eisenberg plays the typecast loner, assaulted by his potential girlfriend after she is bitten by a homeless zombie. His reaction to her change is priceless, apologizing for snapping her ankle in two as she tries to eat him through the bathroom door.

Woody Harrelson is Tallahassee, seeking vengeance against the infected after they killed one of his own, although the character turn loses some of the humor late in the film. Thanks to script, it is able to recover, and lets us know that Harrelson did cry during Titanic, making it okay for every male to admit the same over a decade later.

Even more impressive, the characters in Zombieland are smart. Until the finale inside an amusement park (where all rational thought is thrown out), everyone sticks to the rules, wants to survive, and plays it smart. Why can’t all movie characters be like this?

Movie ★★★★★ 

Sony delivers a sparkling, beautiful, and flat out gorgeous AVC encode for Zombieland. Visuals here are striking, brimming with extravagant environmental detail in the start to fully establish the empty, quiet world. From the texture of the pebble-ridden road to a car off in the distance, everything is fully resolved, sharp, and remarkably crisp. Even the subtle objects, such as the overgrown weeds near the start at 11:47 are just staggering. It really is important to enjoy the little things.

Facial textures are clean, and the zombie make-up is not only complex, but maintained flawlessly. Car interiors are just as detailed, from the leather on the seats to the plastic on the dash. Much of Zombieland takes place under dim lighting, and this encode still comes through. Definition remains high, and with the exception of a haunted house close to the ending, black levels are deep, rich, and consistent with minimal crush.

Colors are bold, yet feel natural. Flesh tones are spot on. Blood is especially apparent, and the dirty meals of the zombie horde are filled with clearly visible little chunks of dirt while they munch away.

If anything, Zombieland is a consistent transfer. Colors are always saturated, black levels are always on, sharpness never dips, noise (despite being shot digitally with the Panavision Genesis and Phantom HD) is never a problem, and long shots retain a truly stunning quality right up until the credits roll.

Video ★★★★★ 

Zombieland comes packed with a DTS-HD mix, one that saves the best for last. Surprisingly, much of the film is subdued, leaving the notable audio to a heavy-handed soundtrack that bleeds nicely, while providing a slight low-end push. Some minor car crunching and shotgun blasts are nicely forceful in terms of their LFE impact.

Once the theme park goes live, rides begin playing music and zombies begin their rush towards the frame in all channels. Atmosphere is high, creating a vivid zombie slaughter playground. Bullets nicely ping off objects in the rears, and the undead growl as they rush their targets. Crisp highs capture the sound of zombies being popped like zits, and the theme from Ghostbusters has never sounded better.

Dialogue is inserted well into the mix, even under the heavy action assault. This is a track that does not do anything wrong, it just rarely has a chance to flex itself.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A commentary from director Ruben Fleischer, writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, along with actors Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg is the start to a decent set of extras. A picture-in-picture track provides various snippets from cast and crew, along with detailed deconstructions of certain scenes.

In Search of Zombieland is the first featurette, a 16-minute making-of that plays out as expected. Zombieland is Your Land looks at locations and sets, followed by seven deleted scenes (unfortunately, none of them with Murray) and four visual effects progression shots. MovieIQ and BD-Live access (that lets you download Zombieland clips… why would you want to do that if you have the entire movie?) remain, along with some trailers.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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