ZOMBIELAND — ★★★ — Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone; rated R (violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity, brief drugs, slurs, brief partial nudity); in general release
"Zombieland" is, as they say in the entertainment industry, "all killer and no filler."
It's a lean, mean horror-comedy with very few extraneous moments.
And yes, that means the movie is every bit as violent and gory as you'd expect it to be. Those with weak stomachs or those who aren't fans of the zombie movie genre are strongly advised to stay home.
However, the movie will appeal to those who are fans of George Romero's cheeky "Living Dead" film series, as well as the even-cheekier British cult hit "Shaun of the Dead."
"Zombieland" is set in the relatively near future, one in which a virus (the so-called "mad cow disease" is referenced) has turned most of the human population into crazed, flesh-eating zombies.
The survivors include Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a confused bundle of various neuroses and afflictions that make his survival under these circumstances seem improbable at best.
Still, Columbus is trying to get to Ohio, where he hopes to find the fate of his parents.
Along the way, he meets up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a redneck survivalist type with little tolerance for the chatty 20-something.
They also encounter Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). These grifter sisters hold our would-be heroes up at gunpoint and take their only form of transportation.
By the way, this film's zombies aren't the slow, shuffling variety. They are the fast-moving, more-terrifying ones seen in the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, as well as "28 Days Later."
Smartly, the filmmakers contrast the horror bits with heavy doses of humor.
And there are a few welcome surprises — such as references to both "Deliverance" and "Ghost Busters," and the ending sequence set in an abandoned West Coast amusement park.13 comments on this story
What makes it work is the very slick, assured direction from first-timer Ruben Fleischer.
"Zombieland" is rated R and features strong, often disturbing violent content (zombie attacks, gunplay and shootings, bludgeonings, vehicular mayhem, and violence against women), graphic, gory and bloody imagery, strong sexual language (profanity and vulgar sex talk), other off-color humor, brief drug content and references (marijuana, as well as over-the-counter medications), derogatory language and slurs, and brief, partial female nudity. Running time: 82 minutes.