©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:

Filthy says:
"Like going back in time to shittier, less intelligent age."

Zombies are so much cooler than vampires. Take a look at the pretty damn good zombie flicks that have come out over the last five years. Through my Testor's-glue-induced haze I can remember the fantastic Dawn of the Dead, the okay Land of the Dead, the pretty good Shaun of the Dead, and now the pretty damn good Zombieland. They all have something in common besides being about the undead wanting to eat your brains: they're hellbent on entertaining you. They aren't all wrapped up in some bullshit mythology or trying to make some grand statement. They're just trying to make you laugh, cringe, and have a good time.

By contrast, vampire movies are mostly dull and pretentious. The Twilight bullshit is some of the stupidest, most trite and overblown moviemaking (and bookwriting) ever. It's like they're a dare to see how obvious and patronizing something can be before teenagers figure out they're being had. Why would anyone think pasty, whining teens are sexy? Why do the living have to mope around so much? When did that permanent fog roll in? Vampire movies are dour, humorless slogs through reams of rules and minutiae, while there's something about zombies that makes people laugh.

Zombieland is pretty fucking funny. It's as gory as the medics tent at a Renaissance Faire for skinheads, and it moves along at a nice clip without a lot of fancy-director-blue-filter horseshit to let you know how painfully romantic it all is. The movie has its flaws, but they're nothing compared to funny Bill Murray's cameo is.

Jesse Eisenberg, playing Michael Cera again, is a nerdy, shy college kid doomed to a lonely life of Code Red Mountain Dew and World of Warcraft when the girl of his dreams bangs on his front door begging for help. She was just attacked by a bum who tried to bite her, and now she just wants refuge and a little snuggle. He's in love. By morning, however, she's a zombie, and he must make the difficult decision to beat the living shit out of the only girl he ever got close to with a porcelain toilet tank lid. As is typical to the genre, the boy ventures outside only to discover the world has gone to shit in a Manwich: overturned cars, destroyed houses, and the undead everywhere eating brains.

Eisenberg is heading east toward Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are alive. If not, can he have the Hummel collection? He crosses paths with the only other living person he's seen, Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is a good old boy who seems pretty damn pleased that everyone else is a zombie. That's more targets to shoot at. Free cars, too, and all the Twinkies are for him. The hillbilly and the emo kid team up to drive east. They run into two more survivors: Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, a scheming pair of sisters who steal Harrelson's truck. They're on their way to Pacific Playland, an amusement park in California rumored to be undead-free.

Eisenberg is smitten with Stone, a raven-haired, big-eyed girl wearing enough mascara to print a dozen newspapers. Even though she's stolen the boys' truck, and then steals the next when the first breaks down, he wants to follow her. So he does, along with Harrelson, who reveals his motivation is the tired-ass cliche of having a dead child. Like I said last week, this overused excuse for a background is just fucking lazy writing. Even in a movie where 99.999 percent of everyone is dead.

The four survivors head to the coast with a side trip to the mansion of Bill Murray (playing himself). It's a huge, froofy joint where it's quite easy to either watch Ghostbusters or listen to its theme. You can also admire a wide range of arts featuring the likeness of Murray. While the four get comfortable in the mansion, an ashen, moaning Murray rises from his bed and begins to roam the house.

I'm not going to give much more detail on the rest of the scene at Murray's. I'll just say he isn't deadand just dresses like a zombie so he can go out and mingle. Murray's cameo ends with a moment as funny as anything I've seen this year, including the time Miriam passed out on the bar at Binker's and some of the regulars took turns crapping in her purse. Normally defecating in an old lady's purse is only mildly amusing, but Miriam once took a legendary dumper in the Mercury convertible out front and brings it up in every conversation. "Your mother's illness reminds me of the time..."

Eventually, the four survivors make it to Pacific Playland, the girls first and the boys in pursuit. Romance blossoms between Eisenberg and Stone when he acts the hero. Harrelson and Eisenberg, who start the movie as polar opposites, become pals in the cop-buddy tradition. Dozens of zombies are crushed and maimed among the cogs and wheels of the amusement park. A twinkie is consumed.

Zombieland is pure genre. There's the zombie movie, the road movie, the cop-buddy movie and the nerd who seeks the unattainable girl and must be a hero to win her movie. The thing is--and a shitload of people who write me don't understand this--there's nothing wrong with genre. Snooty assholes and wannabe film school types look down their noses at any movie that follows a set formula. Those folks are idiots. Genre can be great when done well, like in Zombieland. There are a million ways to be original and clever within the framework of a common theme. Bad genre movies suck when they lean heavily on the genre, or treat the framework like gospel (e.g. vampire shit). Bad movies don't expand or add new twists to genre. Besides, road movies and zombie flicks get made so often because they're such fertile soil and there's a shitload of corn to harvest.

Zombieland doesn't make the most of any of its genres. In truth, the movie gets so wrapped up in its little love story that the undead disappear from the movie for long stretches. Overall, for a world overrun with corpses, there aren't that many around. There are a few at the amusement park, some in a grocery store, and a straggler here and there. The Eisenberg-Stone romance is mostly uninteresting. Neither character adds much to the their basic outlines of shy nerd and bad-girl-on-the-outside-only. The road movie portion is somewhat untethered. It's difficult to get a grip on where they are and how far they have to go. Harrelson's lust for Twinkies gets to be an old joke pretty quick.

Along the heroes' journey, though, and within the genres, there are moments of pure pleasure made with the pure intent to entertain. Like when the four of them trash a crappy Indian curio shop, breaking fake drums, snowballs, dreamcatchers and a thousand more pieces of shitty roadside consumerism. The Murray mansion scene, as I've already said, is awesome goodness. The finale, putting zombies in an amusement park is one of those great ideas that seems so obvious it's hard to believe it wasn't thought of already. Maybe it was, in a Scooby Doo, but definitely never in a Scrappy Doo.

Zombieland is a fine addition to the zombie canon, and yet another fine example why movies about the undead are so much more fun ad worth going to see than all that vampire nonsense. Leave those flicks for the pouty, pasty, self-absorbed teenagers. Four Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Leonard Maltin of Entertainment Tonight

Surrogates is "Entertaining. Bruce Willis remains a stalwart among action movie heroes."

Filthy's Reading
Donald Batheleme - Flying to America

Listening to
Stereolab - Oscillons from the Anti-Sun


Doctor Zhivago