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Movie Review

Zombieland a.k.a. “Bienvenue à Zombieland,” “Dobrodosli v dezeli zombijev,” “Tierra de zombies”

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence/gore and language.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy Horror Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 21 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
October 2, 2009 (wide—2,900 theaters)
DVD: February 2, 2010
Copyright, Columbia Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures

FEAR—What does the Bible say? Answer

About death and Final judgment

VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem? Answer

Featuring: Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Emma Stone (Wichita), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock), Amber Heard, Bill Murray, Derek Graf, Mike White, Jacob G. Akins, Hunter Aldridge, Elle Alexander, Melanie Booth, Daniel Burnley, Chris Burns, Dalton Cole, Blaise Corrigan, Anthony J. Davis, Travis Grant, Robert Hatch, Barry Hopkins, Amir Khan, Amir Zeev Kovacs, Ming Liu, Shaun Lynch, Lynn McArthur, Jade Moser, Paul A. Moser, Darian O'Rear, Justin Price, Steve Prouty, Tammy Luthi Retzlaff, April Rich, Cody Rowlett, Joan Schuermeyer, Michelle Sebek, Jessalin Smith, Steven Stadler, Sonya Thompson, Victory Van Tuyl, Clay Walker, Steve Warren, Travis Young
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Producer: Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, Pariah, Ryan Kavanaugh, Gavin Polone, Rhett Reese, Ezra Swerdlow, Paul Wernick
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

“Nut up or shut up.”

“Zombieland” is a cleverly written film with strong, comedic dialog and believable characters. It’s also one of the latest gore movies that uses one of the most dangerous tools to mask debauchery: humor. And since there is a lot of it interwoven throughout the film, the well-written humor makes it an all too easy temptation to laugh right on through the movie’s short, morbid run.

Only a few human survivors remain on planet Earth. The towns are now desolate, abandoned, and overrun by infected humans who are zombie-like creatures. They secrete black saliva and hungrily consume any human flesh they can find. Of the few survivors is Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) who plans on heading back to his hometown in Ohio with the slim hope of finding his parents alive. His survival is easily explainable since his constant phobias, reclusive attitude, and his growing list of survival rules have helped him thus far.

Along the way, he hitches a ride with Tallahassee (an excellent Woody Harrelson) who is his exact opposite. In addition to his journey to Florida, Tallahassee is also on a quest to find Twinkies before their expiration dates make them permanently extinct. He highly enjoys killing all zombies he encounters, preferably with primitive means, such as car doors and banjos. During a Twinkie hunt in a grocery store, the men get hustled by Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The sisters are headed to California to a theme park that’s rumored to be zombie free. After a few battles of wits, the four eventually decide to tag team and head for California together.

Movies like this are troubling to review. Offensive content aside, “Zombieland” is superbly crafted. It’s a slight parody of the zombie genre and even takes time to poke fun at Facebook. There are several clean laugh-out-loud scenes, and Bill Murray also makes one of the best cameos in recent filmmaking. In addition, the innovative and creative direction by Ruben Fleischer combined with the script writers’ talents makes “Zombieland” funny and interesting in its very short run.

The zombie killers are more than sheer murderers. They have a heart and, understandably, trust issues. Weary of other survivors, they use pseudonyms of their hometowns as opposed to their real names. Their odd bonding is convincing since they only have each other. The film did surprisingly leave room for character development and growth amidst all the gruesome gore.

Offensive Content

The only sexual content is a zombie-turned stripper in the beginning credits, chasing one of her customers. While her nipples are covered, she’s shown running in extremely slow motion. The cursing is very heavy, and I lost count after a while. The Lord’s name is profaned several times, and the “f” word is used in almost every line.

The violence is extremely grotesque, brutal, and bloody. Zombies are shown being decapitated, run over, crushed with hammers, shot, etc. While the camera did turn away during the extremely violent murders, the gross-out, shock factor is ever present. Despite these few turn aways, the audience is still subjected to seeing the zombies suck on bones, eating intestines, and tearing away victim’s flesh with multiple bites. All this was sadly met with laughs and applause from the theater audience.

VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

I believe it’s safe to say that all movies contain sin, as does the world. However, films like “Zombieland” simply glorify sin for what it actually is and offer absolutely no redemption or moral lesson. It is what it is: a film that pushes the boundary of human acceptance for the sake of entertainment. The more filmmakers push the boundaries, the more insensitive people become. It’s a wise-marketing strategy and easy money. In Ephesians 4:18-19, Paul describes why nonbelievers would purchase tickets to films like these:

“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality, so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.”

However, sadly several Christians I know enjoyed this film; I even laughed at times I should not have. We cannot be a light for Christ if we are laughing along with the world. In the same chapter of Ephesians, Christians are commanded to “…not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” The Holy Spirit should not be forced to grieve over this pointless filth. Most people know that Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” In loving Him, we should attempt to keep our minds clean. Seeing films of this nature, requires a Christian to do the opposite of loving God. In 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul wrote, “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” We should keep this definition of love within our hearts and not rejoice when humor is used to make evil a pleasure to watch.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Okay, let’s first start off with a crash course in Zombism 101. We’re dealing with the living-dead here so I’ll try not to be so graphic.

As we learned in “Return of the Living Dead” (1985) zombies survive on…

a) dead animals
b) farm animals
c) human brains

The correct answer is ‘c’.

As was taught in every zombie movie since George Romero’s 1968 cult classic “Night of The Living Dead” the only way to kill a zombie is…

a) run it over with a truck
b) shoot it in the head
c) play classical music; zombies hate classical music (they thrive on heavy metal)

All morbidity aside, if you know the answers to these two questions then you’ve probably been wanting to see “Zombieland” since they played a trailer at this year’s ComicCon. If you are repulsed at the mere mention of carnivorous creatures rising from the grave and seeking after human flesh then “Zombieland” definitely is not your cup of Joe.

Let’s face it, little has to be said about the content of a film called “Zombieland.” “Zombie” pictures rely on a very tried and true formula. If “Zombie” pictures (a sub genre of a genre that is replete with subgenres) are good for anything it’s that you know exactly what you’re gonna get the moment you purchase a ticket. You know there’s going to be some kind of scientific “accident” that releases the ghastly ghouls onto an unsuspecting and remote rural town. You know there’s going to be plenty of gore and non-stop maiming of the undead (as well as a few of the unfortunate soon-to-be undead). You know there’s probably going to be a lot of profanity. And you know the story is going to find some way to sneak in a scantily clad, if not totally naked undead woman, having died in a rather embarrassing situation which leaves her in want of clothing and with a new found taste for human flesh.

So let’s get the preliminaries out of the way first, what is objectionable about the latest Zombie picture, ‘Zombieland’? Well, from a Biblical point of view, just about everything from it’s opening, bloody title sequence to it’s guns-a-blazing, splatter-filled closing finale.

There are too, too many examples of characters using profanity to list. There are instances of using the name of Jesus and the Lord in a vain manner.

Though there is no sexual scenes in the film, the movie does have a scene early on during the opening title sequence where a well endowed zombie-stripper chases after her human prey. Though she is, for all intended purposes, topless (she wears pasties) the scene is far more disturbing than titillating, since she is covered in blood and has a bloody froth spewing from her mouth. Which leads us to the aforementioned obligatory element of all movies where the undead are at the center of the story, the gore. The film is filled with scenes of violence and gore which consists of the typical violent mayhem found in films of this ilk: shootings, beheadings, stabbings, and multiple humans becoming zombie food. Though, most of the more graphic violence happens outside of the camera lens and the film isn’t of the hyper-violent variety of others from this genre, to the uninitiated the violence will undoubtedly be nothing less than overwhelming.

The story is pretty simple, Jesse Eisenberg (“Adventureland”) plays “Columbus”, one of the few remaining survivors after disease has decimated the human population and left the United States a vast wilderness of desolation and marauding undead. He has come up with a list of rules on how to survive the zombies and remain among the living.

Though he has managed to be one of only a handful of people left in this ravaged world, he accredits it to his lack of social skills and phobias of just about anything. When he takes off to find what may be left of his biological family in Columbus, Ohio he runs into “Tallahassee” (played by Woody Harrelson) his polar opposite, on his way to Tallahassee, Florida. Since people can no longer be trusted those that remain refer to each other as the city they are trying to escape to.

While “Columbus” is on his way west to find his family, “Tallahassee’s” goals are a bit more primal. He’s a gun-totin’, zombie-slayin’ butt kicker who wants to kill as many of the creatures as possible that get between him and his only goal in life, a Hostess Twinkie.

It is on this quest to find this precious Twinkie that “Columbus” and “Tallahassee” find two more survivors, “Wichita” and “Little Rock” (played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin respectively). The two are sisters who specialize in con games as a way of survival. They are heading to California to celebrate “Little Rock’s” birthday at a local amusement park.

The relationship between the four leads forms the theme of the movie as the story deals with issues of trust in a world where people you once knew and loved are now trying to eat you for dinner. The four, each with their own personal issues, struggle in having to depend on one another for survival.

“Zombieland” will definitely draw comparisons to the lighter fare of the horror genre with films such as “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Evil Dead 2” (1987). Like those two earlier films, “Zombieland” is definitely trying to get at your funny bone. However, rather than relying on slapstick or parody, “Zombieland” allows the performances, of the lead characters in a surreal environment, to provide the comedy. Though much of the violence is excessive and gratuitous it is played for comedic effect. There is a surprise cameo in the middle of this film by a well known actor that is very clever and provides the greatest laughs in the film. The movie is also different than its predecessors because it is less of a true horror/zombie movie than an amalgam of various genres: part buddy pic, part Zombie splatter-flick, part gross-out comedy and part romantic love story.

As far as the quality of the movie, the four leads perform well and are drawn out in a manner that makes them far more than just flesh-on-bone waiting to become a zombie happy-meal. The production, consisting of mostly creature make-up and bloody gore effects, is pretty much par for course, which is either bad or good depending on your disposition towards these types of films.

With a film aptly titled “Zombieland” let there be no doubt, you’re going to get what you expect. If you have a stomach for gratuitous, mindless zombie violence with morbid humor thrown in for laughs, then “Zombieland” was made for you. If, on the other hand, your stomach turns at the mere mention of the acts mentioned in the quiz at the beginning of this review, then you should probably avoid “Zombieland” like the plague.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Spencer Schumacher (USA)
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Creative, hilarious, and visceral. “Zombieland” packs all the punch of “28 Days Later” with all the joie de vivre of “Summer School.” A non-stop thrill ride from the get-go. I’d pay 7 bucks to see it again. The only screwed up thing about Zland is the seemingly limitless supply of rounds for the pump shotgun. But considering that’s the film’s only beef, you can imagine this is quality entertainment at its best.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mega Tron, age 23 (USA)
Positive—I saw this movie just two days ago. Enjoyed it immensely. The characters were really fun, easy to empathize with, and believable. This is, believe it or not, the only movie that has caused me to cry!

***SPOILER*** It is revealed that Tallahassee’s son died, probably killed by zombies. ***END SPOILER***

Cons: • The language was extreme. Lots of f-bombs and “poop” (yes, I mean the s-word) • Gore unnecessary, at times. It’s obviously a zombie movie, so we all know what a shotgun does to a person/zombie, but seeing a zombie consuming a person was a major turn-off for me.

All in all, a really fun movie, but not for squeamish. Recommend you use Clearview or whatever to censor the language.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dave, age 18 (Poland)
Positive—Considering certain factors aside for a moment; and understanding what George A. Romero said of his original zombie movies being reflective of society; “Zombieland” was a first class representation of where our world is headed. You mention about the zombie stripper—chasing a client away while baying for his blood. When I see this, I do not see a stripper chasing a person for blood or food as entertainment, but an embodiment of humanities craving for desires of the flesh. The overrun of zombies is a socio-political response to the consumerist society we are all currently living in. In essence, we are eating ourselves out of a future with our commercialized and consumer lifestyles.

What movies such as this illustrate well, is the terrible aspects of our own society. By creating an entertaining “comedic response” would more people watch it? The symbolism and undertones can be read by anyone, understood with a few simple historical fact findings and interpreted based on an understanding of these historical facts.

The reflective socio-political themes have been recurring in a great many more serious films, and have tended to be overlooked, despite their relevance. I wonder just how many people actually understood the messages behind this film, and judged it on those very merits?

The fact that the four protagonists learn to rely on one another, becoming a family unit towards the end shows that there is more to life than selfish goals. They create their own community, share experiences, love, laughter, joy and sadness and loss, too. Columbus learns to branch out to others, Tallahassee learns to love again, and the sisters learn to trust, despite all obstacles. Is that the message you choose to see in this movie when you watch it? Or is it the violence and gore that you see? Personally, I saw a very well crafted and executed movie, that really brought to bear the truths underlying in our society.

There are many movies created about the horrors of war, with all the blood, guts and violence that truly takes place in theaters of battle, yet are so rarely derided in the way movies such as “Zombieland” have been. Maybe the message underlying “Zombieland” is more to live your life right, and when the order of things is not right, instigate the change it needs, be strong enough to stand for what you believe is right. Uphold values (as Columbus does by setting a list of rules; much the same as Moses' ten Commandments) learn to appreciate the little things (as Tallahassee does) and be trusting, but not blindly so (as the sisters do).

When I watch a movie, despite the content/theme, I always look for the positive message. In every situation, one can be found. What is it you look for…?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—LB, age 30 (Australia)
Neutral
Positive—I shouldn’t need to comment on the bad language and the violence depicted in this film—both are quite extreme and I won’t recommend this film if you are really concerned at/ offended by either! I am a little concerned that no one has as yet mentioned more than one positive message/ theme from the film! The themes and ideas are great if you are willing to talk about them afterward, because they reveal some nice aspects of human nature.

The film does promote concepts like trust, finally revealing the positive response we can get when we trust others. This includes trust in various types of relationships—family, friends and with members of the opposite sex. The relationships of characters in the film play a central role in the story, conflicts and resolution.

In my opinion, it is the relationships and characters that really drive the film and enable it to be so engaging—not the violence/ language! “Appreciating the little things in life” is another positive message, especially for those of us in our affluent Western cultures. Self sacrifice, helping others is certainly a positive message in the film and when a couple of characters are willing to risk life and limb for people who don’t even respect them; it can really resonate as a strong, positive theme.

All in all, if you are willing to discuss and think about key themes and ideas in the movie, “Zombieland” can give a whole lot of food for thought.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Matthew, age 32 (Australia)
Negative
Negative—If you love Jesus, stay out of this film! I had to repent afterward for letting my guard down and watching this piece of wordily filth. Movies such as these taint your mind and cripple your relationship with Jesus Christ. For a Christian there are the good things and then there are the excellent things for which we strive. Zombieland was neither, it was of the worst. Our Lord told us to be holy as He is holy. Watching films such as these do not help us with that endeavor. It is so easy for us to think that letting a little bit of these things in is okay, that it is just a movie and harmless entertainment. We need to remember that scripture says we expose the Holy Spirit inside us to these things and that we take the sin into the body of Christ. These things actually affect our fellow believers. Please don’t watch this. There are 3,000 other things you could do with your time, money and eyes that would better glorify God. In love, Noah.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Noah H. Wylie, age 28 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—First off, if you plan to see this movie be prepared for a whole lot of blood gore and gross scene. With that said there was next to no sex in the movie (just one bloody stripper (no nudity), as for the swearing, yes many people think there was a lot but compared to other action/horror/zombie movies it wasn’t that bad. I pretty much made my friend come see this movie with me, he had no desire to see it. But after we had left the theater we were both very satisfied. It was either the lovable characters or the, hilarious gore that made with movie a must see. Being only 1.21 hours long they didn’t have a lot of time to work with so they filled it up with action, shooting, killing, and explosions. I am definitely going to be seeing this movie again sometime soon.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Matt, age 15 (Canada)
Positive—This movie was awesome!! ITs probably my favorite movie now. Now, I like horror movies and gory stuff. But I suggest you don’t watch this if you don’t like blood or gore. There is so sex but a couple minutes into it you see a half naked women; her breasts are covered though. There is some bad language, but I wouldn’t say its horrible. Overall, it’s an awesome movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Morgan Gregory, age 13 (USA)
Positive—“Zombieland” is hands down the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. Granted, it is dark comedy and super-grisly, so it’s not for everyone. As far as film-making quality it was superb, and I was not offended by the film. However, it does have a less than ideal take on morality. Columbus’ rule #15 is “Don’t be a Hero,” which is counter to self-sacrificial biblical teaching. However, he does end up breaking this rule at the end of the movie to save Wichita and Little Rock. The film is truly dark and may be disturbing to some, but if you like this sort of thing (as I definitely do) then you should see this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—John, age 16 (USA)
Negative—This was junk.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Joseph, age 12 (USA)
Neutral—It was offensive, with all of the language and taking the Lord’s name in vain, but it was very funny and entertaining.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jacob Atkinson, age 14 (USA)
Positive—I love this movie; it is so awesome and funny. I really hate horror movies and stuff, but I love zombie movies and suspense movies. They are really funny; I think I like that kind of stuff. I don’t know, I’m weird. I really didn’t like that it didn’t have enough action scenes, but the funny of it was enough for me. So, overall, it was a great movie, and I hope there is a 2nd.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Isabel, age 14 (USA)
Positive—Let me just start off by saying that this is definitely not a movie for younger kids, or people who can’t stomach gore. However, if you can, by all means. Watch this movie. I believe any zombie flick fan should definitely check this one out. The story is absolutely great, it’s …hilarious (I’m still watching the movie, and I’m literally laughing so hard I’m crying). Woody Harrelson keeps the movie rolling with some excellent comedy, which runs all the way from comical lines to the way he dispatches zombies. This keeps the movie light hearted, and quite entertaining. I find I can identify with Columbus, as most of what he’s thinking in the movie has run through my head at many times (except for the sexual stuff), which made me enjoy the movie even more.

I shall now observe the more negative qualities of the movie: I knew there would be profanity, but I lost count of the F-bombs… There’s a smattering of other profanities and uses of the Lord’s name, but the sadly, the F-bomb takes the spotlight for this movie. Columbus utters most of them, which made it even more sad. Columbus kills someone, and doesn’t appear to have any regrets (even though the killing is a complete accident, and as he put it, a reflex). Columbus and Wichita drink straight out of a wine bottle, dance; Wichita tells Columbus she’d give him “honorary first rights,” then they almost kiss, when Tallahassee interrupts them in a rather comical way. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Fyzix, age 17 (USA)