“Zombieland: Double Tap” (2019)
Running time: 99 minutes
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Featuring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch
Tallahassee: “I have nothing against hippies, I just wanna beat the shit out of ’em.”
Recently released into cinemas is the horror/comedy sequel “Zombieland: Double Tap” (2019) a direct follow on to “Zombieland” (2009) released ten years ago, solidifying the talents of that cast, adding to a sub genre that had not been explored to the extent it has now and launching the cinematic career of Ruben Fleischer who would never really live up to the hype of this first hit, definitely making this his best movie to date. Now this sequel has arrived with all the original people returning as well as adding a few more recognisable faces that at times compete for screen-time which gives the effect of a piecemeal project that never really satisfies like the first one. That is not to say that this new movie is not enjoyable, it is, yet it feels like the plot, narrative and humour has not changed in ten years, all the familiar narrative devices are almost exactly the same, which was fun but predictable, something that good sequels are never guilty of.
What is surprising with “Zombieland: Double Tap” is that the entire cast has returned including Oscar winner Emma Stone who has not lost a comedic step in the intervening years, she is still fun as well as being a true talent having proved herself over almost every genre going with still so much to do. It is also great to see a grown up Abigail Breslin who since the double of “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) and “Zombieland” has proven herself a mainstay of the horror genre and of course being an Oscar nominee herself. Both Woody Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg do their usual routines that they have been executing for years which is always fun to see, Harrelson is possibly the second best actor here and is also the lead which is something he sometimes shies away from but here he is in top form.
For some the idea of a zombie comedy might have started with the always watchable “Shaun of the Dead” (2003) but of course that have been around much longer with one of the first, and in my opinion the greatest example of this sub genre “The Return of the Living Dead” (1985) that proved it was possible to make a R rated horror comedy that would be often imitated but never truly surpassed even with all its garish 1980s framing. Written and Directed by Dan O’Bannon who would err on the side of horror as he was not a gifted writer of comedy would see this movie as a highlight of his career, even though he co-wrote the genre define “Alien” (1979). Of course even though there have been innumerable zombie comedies “Zombieland” represented a shift as it was more concerned with the human’s than it was with either the zombies or even surviving the apocalypse, these new characters thrived in this new environment, there was no existential angst or attempting to turn back the clock, it was obsessed with the good elements of a zombie apocalypse and what it would take to thrive in such an environment. We also were introduced to people that were all fun no matter where they landed on the serious spectrum.
Of course “Zombieland” was filmed and released during President Obama’s first term in office when the US after eight years of a Republican Presidency had pushed the country to the brink, there was some hope. The GEC was in full effect which for some was like an apocalypse, there were homes that were so far under water people left them abandoned, not only that but speculators were able to thrive in this environment even making a living and purchasing first cheap foreclosed homes. We see the kind of desolation in the surrounds in “Zombieland” as you might have seen in some streets in towns in the US. So if Romeros “Dawn of the Dead” (1975) was in part a comment on consumerism, then this movie could be said to have been one on the effects of GEC.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is set ten years after the events of the first film, survivors Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock have become experts in identifying and disposing of various zombies and set up their new home in the abandoned White House. Columbus decides to propose to Wichita, while Tallahassee rebuffs Little Rock’s hopes of starting her own family. The next morning, Tallahassee finds a note from Wichita and Little Rock, who have left due to Little Rock feeling Tallahassee still treats her like a child and Wichita’s fear she is too attached to Columbus. As one might expect this new movie becomes a road movie with surprises along the way which are both funny and frightening. I will not spoil anything but there are some plot twists along the way, they are all welcoming as is the conclusion and there is a post credit sting of sorts, fans of the previous movie will no doubt enjoy this as it does have a welcome cameo.
Not only is the director back for more but screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return for the sequel, both have seen some high highs since the original having written both ‘Deadpool’ movies so it must have been a slam-dunk to have them return but like their ‘Deadpool’ sequel they seem unable to movie a plot forward to anywhere actually original. Sure they can construct a movie and write clever lines, they also seem to know how to construct character, but a plot seems to evade them, they do enjoy repeating themselves.
The most welcome addition in terms of the cast is definitely Rosario Dawson whose inclusion automatically makes this a must watch movie, Dawson adds to the cast in ways that only she is able to with her seriousness as well as her ability to seemingly effortlessly be funny at the very same time. Through the years Dawson has made anything she appears in better which is not something that many actors can say, she has star power to spare, in many respects she is a working actor but a true superstar that most any audience member will appreciate.
“Zombieland: Double Tap” is one of those sequels that in some ways does not have to do a lot to please audiences, on one hand if you liked the first movie then this one is almost exactly in the same vein, if you are new to the idea of a ‘Zombieland’ movie then everything is introduced and backgrounded for you so will not be missing too much. Not only that but new characters are introduced (and there are a few to be fair) quickly so the narrative movies along at a brisk pace, although the actual stakes as well as the plot are actually pretty thin on the the ground. The bottom line is this: you know exactly what you are getting when you pay your money for a ticket, there is no false advertising at all. In saying that could not help but think that it would have been pleasing for this to have some more originality and an actual continuation of the plot, I mean almost everything from the first movie is dropped here, which I found just a little lazy. However if you want a nice night out with some comedy and a few scares then you could a lot worse than “Zombieland: Double Tap”.