Zombie clowns are among the walking dead in a nation consumed by zombies. (Columbia Pictures)
'Zombieland" may be the best example yet of a post-Tarantino splatter comedy.
It's a black-blood-spitting mugging of a movie, but it's also relentlessly funny and innovative, the sort of film that makes you writhe and laugh at the same time.
Killing and death have always been grand sources of humor, being the least funny things in existence, but ever since that dude's brains were blasted all over the back of Samuel L. Jackson's car in "Pulp Fiction," the notion that gore could be hilarious has been worming its way into the mainstream.
In "Zombieland," a film that would have been shown only in grindcore horror theaters two decades ago, this movement becomes complete. The film even stars that adorable little girl from "Little Miss Sunshine," for heaven's sake!
It's even more fitting that a film so outrageous and yet somehow expected comes from a group of nobodies. Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have a handful of nothing credits to their names, but they soon will be the toast of the horror crowd.
Somebody eats a bad burger. They turn into a zombie. They bite someone else, they turn into a zombie. That's about all the background offered upon meeting nerdy college student Columbus (ever-nervous Jesse Eisenberg from "Adventureland"), who has survived the rise of zombie nation and is cautiously making his way to the hometown that is his namesake.
Columbus has a long list of rules he follows -- "Beware of bathrooms" is one, "Don't be a hero" another -- that have kept him alive. Still, his chances seem limited.
But then he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, perfectly cast), a zombie-killing enthusiast of the top order, and they team up. Soon after they run into a pair of unscrupulous but adorable young sisters, Wichita ( "Superbad" dream girl Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin from "Sunshine").
Eventually, a team is formed and a road trip is under way. The destination? A fabled amusement park in Los Angeles that Little Rock imagines must be free of zombies.
Along the way, though, the gang decides to check out the mansions of Beverly Hills, opening the film to one of the funniest cameos in memory.
Director Fleischer moves fast, and the movie only lasts 82 minutes -- prediction: The 75-minute feature film is two years away -- so there's little time to get bored (although the mansion sequence is still a few beats too long).
Beyond that, the film keeps throwing flashbacks and asides -- "Zombie Kill of the Week" -- at the viewer. This is definitely a movie for the attention-deficit crowd, which means most of us.
Does it all mean anything? Well, there's that "we're all zombies moving through life, missing the golden moments"-thing that all zombie movies live by. Other than that, though, it's mainly about what a hoot it is to blow the face off a walking piece of meat.
For many, this won't be appealing. For another crowd, though, "Zombieland" offers both the vicarious release of pent-up resentment toward all the zombies who seem to rule the world and plenty of chances to laugh aloud.
Hilarity and horror. What a twisted cool and hauntingly modern combination.