When the zombie apocalypse hit North America, this student (Jesse Eisenberg) was more psychologically prepared than most survivors. He had never had any real friends, and was not close to his family, so as people started to turn into flesh-eating maniacs, he was not so affected as some might have been. But that was not to say he did not wish for a sense of purpose in his life now society had broken down, and he still wanted to head for Columbus Ohio to see if any of his family hadn't died. Along the way he drew up thirty-one rules for surviving the undead, and happened to meet someone who wasn't afflicted, too...
Zombieland was blatantly (and admitted by its creators) inspired by the British zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, putting an American twist on the successful material and taking the notion of a world overrun by zombies further in that there's hardly anyone "normal" left alive by the time the story begins. Our narrator and hero, known only by the name of his destination, helpfully fills us in on the background to the disaster, and carries the idea that this was one of those movies depicting a global catastrophe that thought, hey, how bad could it be? After all, with hardly anyone about, you could do pretty much whatever you wanted, right?
So there no The Road-style struggles for existence here, as we never see the characters scavenging for the last few scraps of edible food left by a dying civilisation, and they never need medical supervision. We can just about believe this is down to them already being so seasoned in the tactics of survival that they barely think about how they are going through with it, but director Ruben Fleischer determined to keep things light, while still including a message about togetherness that you might have found in a television sitcom - no surprise, then, that Zombieland began life as a small screen series pilot. You didn't really get that with Shaun and his cohorts across the Atlantic.
This provided a rambling, road movie plot for Columbus to wander through, first teaming up with fellow survivor Tallahassee, played with survivalist relish by Woody Harrelson. They meet on a highway scattered with abandoned cars and bodies, and strike up a wary friendship born of convenience, and, a hint of what is to come, out of the need for someone to talk to along the way. Tallahassee is headed for Mexico, but agrees to drive Columbus part of the way to his destination, and in spite of their personalities not exactly being compatible (the apocalypse makes for some unlikely relationships) they do learn to live with each others' quirks, idiosyncrasies that are only exacerbated by their isolation from the now-missing humanity.
Columbus mentions frequently that he would like a girlfriend, and lo and behold it looks like his luck is in when they meet an attractive young woman (Emma Stone) in a supermarket. Unfortunately she and her little sister (Abigail Breslin) are con artists, and steal the pair's weapons and transport, but we know we'll be seeing them again as everyone in this film, everyone not undead that is, has to learn a life lesson about getting along with their fellow humans. If this is starting to sound a little too touchy-feely or even preachy, this is held at bay by some sharp and witty jokes, ranging from violent slapstick when various zombies are dispatched to the bizarre in-joke of having Bill Murray, playing himself, as one of the survivors (one of the funniest sequences in the movie). A goodhearted air helps Zombieland along, and if it's not exactly a pulse-pounding diversion, odd for a horror movie, it's more intended to amuse. Music by David Sardy.