However, the film surprised everybody. Not only did it become a cult favourite but it launched the careers of two young actors: Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg. It also reminded the world that Woody Harrelson was still a force to be reckoned with and showed that Abigail Breslin was capable of doing more than “feel-good” movies.
Now exactly a decade after the release of Zombieland, the original team have got back together to celebrate the anniversary by releasing Zombieland: Double Tap, and once again it feels like the film will have to overcome some major hurdles in order to get cinemagoers to part with their hard-earned cash.
Sequels to great comedy films are often let downs, and “anniversary” films or reboots tend to do little more than sour the memories of the originals. But everyone take a sigh of relief because Zombieland: Double Tap actually recaptures the magical formula of the original and is a more than worthy follow-up.
Just like in real life, the film’s plot picks up exactly a decade after the original. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Wichita (Emma Stone) are still alive and well in Zombieland. They are now well-adapted to a world where the living dead reign supreme, and they’ve even identified the different kinds of zombies that they are faced with every day.
Columbus and Wichita are now a couple, while Little Rock looks up to Tallahassee who is sometimes an overbearing father figure. And it is there where things go horribly wrong. Little Rock is tired of being treated like a little girl and decides to flee with a pacifist named Berkeley (Avan Jogia). At the same time, Columbus freaks out Wichita by proposing to her, causing her to go on the run as well.
However, with a new breed of super-zombie (nicknamed T-800s), Zombieland is even more unsafe than usual, so Tallahassee and Columbus decide that it is time to try and bring the family back together again.
So how does Zombieland: Double Tap work when so many other anniversary reboots have failed miserably? The answer is pretty simple. Director Ruben Fleischer and the film’s key writers don’t deviate too much from what worked with the first film, but they don’t rest on old jokes from the past either. There are gentle nods to the first film there for the fans, but as a whole they have created a new storyline and simply placed their characters in it. And the result is just pure magic.
The film doesn’t fall into the trap of flooding audiences with too many brand-new characters either. Those that are introduced, such as the brilliantly funny Madison (Zoey Deutch), serve their purpose but never overshadow the original four characters that fans know and love.
The last key ingredient in making this film work is the fact that the writers know the limits of the plot and don’t try to exceed the parameters of horror and comedy. This keeps the audience wrapped up in the realism of the situation (well, as much realism as there can be in a film about the living dead). The perfect example here is the monster truck scene. Yes, it might seem extreme, but none of the stunts performed are anything that you wouldn’t see at a regular Monster Jam event.
Perhaps the best aspect of this sequel, though, is the amount of times the film tricks its audience into a false sense of security, into thinking they know what is going to happen next. The talented screenwriters deliver totally unpredictable outcomes. The result is something that has become really rare in cinema today – the heightened suspense that comes with believing that perhaps not all of your favourite characters are going to make it through this one alive…
With Zombieland: Double Tap, there’s little chance any true fan of the first film is going to be disappointed. The characters are still their normal selves, and the storyline they find themselves in fits perfectly with everything we have seen in the past. The jokes work, and there’s horror and suspense throughout.
My only word of advice would be to make sure you watch the first film before you go to try and enjoy Double Tap, because you’ll be completely lost if you don’t.
The Zombieland magic is back, so fans should embrace it happily.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus