Written by Old Bluffer 27th Oct 2009
[Massive spoiler warning on this death...]
It won't take too long to explain Zombieland's central premise. A virus has spread across America, turning everyone into zombies as it goes. Survivors are soon picked off as civilisation (this is the US, so I use that term loosely) breaks down and during the film we only ever see five uninfected humans. Relationships aren't too important in such a society, so instead of real names, these people just call themselves after places, either of where they've come from, or where they want to get to.
The first, (and the unassuming hero of the piece) is Columbus, a nerdy, neurotic and mostly disfunctional World of Warcraft player. Pre-zombies, he was a social outcast, but his paranoia and OCD somehow equips him to be a canny survivor in the post-zombie world. Formulating a long list of rules which he unswervingly follows, Columbus manages to eke out a living by predicting where zombies will jump him (the toilet) and always ensuring that he kills them properly.
Rule 2 - Touble Tap: "One bullet more in the head will go a long way to ensuring your survival. Just because the zombie is down is no reason not to shoot it in the head."
Columbus eventually bumps into Tallahassee, and it is soon clear they are polar opposites. Tallahassee is a gun-totin', NASCAR watching redneck, through and through, and has survived the zombie holocaust by dint of being an extraordinarily violent, zombie destroying machine.
Columbus: "When Tallahassee gets going, he sets the standard for 'not to be fucked with'"
The two team up, and meet Wichita and Little Rock, two sisters who are adept con artists. The men are outmatched by these two conniving little vixens, and soon have all their arsenal of weaponry stolen, along with their set of wheels.
Tallahassee vows revenge, but it soon becomes apparent that, zombies notwithstanding, his bark is very much worse than his bite - deep down ol' Tallahassee is a bit of a softie.
They do catch up with the girls, and armed with a tourist "Celebrity Map" decide to camp out in the house of the biggest star they can find. Tallahassee takes charge of this mission, and excitedly ushers them into a staggeringly ostentatious mansion, belonging to none other than the (presumably late) Bill Murray.
Bill was evidently not shy about his celebrity status, and has liberally decked out his house with artwork depicting himself in various scenes of grandeur. This hubris just impresses Tallahassee all the more though, and it seems even Columbus is something of a fan. Once he realises that the young teen, Little Rock, has no idea who Bill Murray is, he ushers her into the mansion's private cinema and forces her to watch Ghostbusters.
Meanwhile, Tallahasse and Wichita are kicking back in one of the reception rooms, when a Zombified Bill Murray staggers in, in full on, hammed up George Romero mode.
This ghoulish display might have freaked out people during the onset of the zombie crisis, but our two plucky heroes are Survivors, and Wichita leaps into action, whacking him with a golf club.
Bill emits a distinctly un-zombielike scream of pain, which undoubtedly saves his life - zombies don't scream like girls!
It turns out that Bill is also a survivor, presumably because he has a sturdy house and is used to living like a recluse. Once humanity was wiped out, he discovered he could put his theatrical talents to good use, and disguise himself as a zombie. This allows him to go out and about without being molested. In fact, he's just returned from a round of golf!
Bill proves to be a convivial host, and everything seems to point to a rather pleasant evening. Until that is, they decide to play a practical joke on the unwitting Columbus, who is still enjoying watching Venkman and co on the big screen.
They prep Bill outside the cinema, telling him that Columbus is a total coward.
"I'll get him" says Bill, smugly, and settles once again into his Zombie character.
They burst the doors open, and Bill staggers in, moaning in a splendid "I want to eat your brainzzzz" idiom.
What everybody has foolishly forgotten though is that Columbus hasn't survived this long by sheer luck, and is no slouch when it comes to dealing with unexpected undead intruders.
Proving this very point, Columbus leaps up in terror, unlimbers his ever-present shotgun and blasts poor old Bill in the chest.
He would certainly have continued his assault with a "double tap" shot, but stops when he sees Wichita and Tallahassee stricken with grief.
It is left to Tallahassee, the biggest Bill Murray fan left in the world, to cradle Bill's head as he dies. He asks him if he has any regrets, and Bill has a long think about it.
"Garfield," he admits sorrowfully.
After the film's credits, this scene is extended, showing that Tallahassee quotes a scene from Caddyshack and Bill plays along - a true thespian to the end!
Old Bluffer's Thoughts
This was a splendid cameo by Bill Murray, and a highly enjoyable death as well.
So, what's the film like, and does it rip off Sean of the Dead? Well, the film is great, and yes, it does attempt to, but that's not necessarily bad thing.
It's a much simpler film, and this is one of its strengths. They don't try too hard with social commentary for example, but what is there is still amusing.
There's only a tiny cast, but again, this helps the film, as it gives everybody plenty of room to develop, and they are all likeable characters although Columbus kept reminding me of an American version of Simon Amstell so much, I was actually disappointed to prove to myself afterwards that it wasn't him...)
Most importantly of course, there is an abundance of comedy zombie violence, which is after all, what most of us want.
So, it doesn't rival SotD (in this instalment at least) but it's a highly enjoyable romp nonetheless and we look forwards to a sequel this time next year.