I love zombie movies. The thing about zombie movies is you can do ANYTHING with the world. The obstacle is a force that has no country, no politics, no emotion (generally). This enemy has a singular focus… to kill leaving the humans open to experiment with all sort of internal drama from gender politics to the police state. Loving it though I do, I’ll be the first to admit the genre has become completely over-saturated. However, to me, a bigger issue than way too many zombie properties is the stories themselves have become … so DOUR. Almost every version of a zombie movie is human suffering and misery and usually a bittersweet ending (or everybody just freaking dies). Of course there are over the top exceptions, musical takes and satire, but for the most part the zombie genre is the moodiest horror genre lumbering around out there.
But not ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP.
What a RELIEF Zombieland has been since the first entry came out in 2009 written by Rhett Reese (Deadpool) and Paul Wernick (also Deadpool) and directed by Ruben Fleischer (Unicorn Store, Venom), a time when Shaun of the Dead was five years behind us and The Walking Dead was a just a year from premiering (and disappointing three years later). As the zombie genre was just finding its stumbling balance in human misery, here came a movie that was pure comic book fun while still maintaining the rush of terror that is the animated dead.
Then it was gone. And since the zombie genre, as stated with a few notable exceptions, evolved into a slow death march of depression. So imagine my excitement when ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP was announced (again, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick with Dave Callaham and directed by Ruben Fleischer). After a decade of “woe the world of the dead”, was I going to get another round of pure adrenaline, comic book, zombie mayhem?!
It’s a fun movie made all the more so by my unique experience of ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP in 4DX. What is 4DX? Have you ever seen a movie at Disney or a well-financed theme park where the seats move, wind is blown in your face, and objects tickle the back of your head and ankles to physically simulate the experience in the film? It was that but a little extra. The film opens on a winter day as “snow” was dropped in the theater itself. The seats rumbled as we were reintroduced to our characters of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and, of course, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). It’s ten years past since a strain of Mad Cow Disease mutated into “mad person disease” and the world became Zombieland. We join our heroes, now perhaps too familiar and comfortable in the zombiefied world, as they move into the White House (of course they do, who wouldn’t?) and settle into… they don’t know. That’s the driving force of this sequel. The first film was about survival. Now they’ve survived… now what do they do? How do you define your wants in this world where you can both do whatever you want but not have everything you need? The film could have gotten incredibly maudlin about the concept but kept it simple. They want “home”. To be settled without settling.
Little Rock takes off with a boy (and who can blame her, living ten years with no contact outside her sister, her sister’s boyfriend and Woody Harrelson with a blowtorch) setting everyone else off on a walking dead road trip to find her. Meanwhile, Zombieland has changed in ten years and I LOVE this development. Zombies have evolved, a concept introduced at the top detailing dumb zombies (“Homers”), smart zombies (“Hawkings”), fast zombies (“Ninjas”) and, most frightening of all, adaptable apex predator zombies that require more than a double tap to bring them down (“T800” so named for the Terminator franshise). It’s a great, raise the stakes, touch. No more “point and shoot” kills. Never get too comfortable in Zombieland.
But back to the 4DX for a moment. It was cool with gunshots “whizzing” by your head with a puff of air, wind blown in your face and the rumble beneath your seat as you drove along the dystopian landscape. However, there also didn’t seem to be a lot of places in the movie to use the advantage of 4DX. In some cases, as a monster truck barreled down on a herd of T800’s, we were swung around in our seats (the purse of a girl next to me flying out of her hands). But for the most part, there wasn’t much to enhance in that nature. In fact, I felt like we got more action in the seats from the preview for the upcoming Ford vs Ferarri film with Christian Bale than in ZOMBIELAND. But cool is cool and 4DX is tight. Admittedly, the technology found its moments especially with a tracking shot near the end that lifted the audience in the air over a skyscraper as the herd of T800’s swarmed in, the seats shifting and swaying to add a layer of flight, heightening the growing tension.
Over all, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP is just so much fun. It’s one of those films you can almost see the writers and director enjoying the hell out of themselves as they create it. As in they must have gotten so excited to get Luke Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch and Thomas Middleditch on board to expand and deepen their weird world. Let’s be honest. It’s been pretty tense and tough in real life and film in general has expressed that, especially horror. It was so refreshing to have a horror movie raise my heart rate and be a small party to watch. ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP arrives in theaters October 18, 2019.