Ruben Fleischer’s zombie action comedy delivers the laughs
Moderated by Scott Mantz from “Access Hollywood,” the panel kicked off with director Ruben Fleischer coming out to introduce an exclusive Red Band trailer, an amazing compilation of scenes that began with the one we watched them shooting on set of Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) walking into a supermarket, Woody playing “Dueling Banjos” on a banjo, before being attacked by a fat blood-drooling zombie. Woody charges the zombie with the banjo raised saying “You’ve got a purty mouth” before swinging the instrument at the zombie’s head. Jesse’s voiceover says, “Welcome to Zombieland, a Greatest Hits collection of nightmares,” and we see a short montage of all-out carnage, as people are being chased by a diverse array of crazed zombies, including a woman in a wedding dress (and her bridesmaids, all zombies) and another woman crashing through the windshield of her car and landing face first on the pavement. It’s similar to the opening of the recent teaser but showing a lot more zombie scenarios, wrapping with a scene of them driving in a car down the highway and Woody opening the driver’s side door hitting a zombie with it, telling his riding partner, “It’s the little things…” We then see Columbus practicing one of his other 47 rules, which is to “limber up,” doing exercises by the side of the road. Woody tells Jesse, “I’m not easy to get along with and I’m sensing that you’re a bit of a bitch.” We see Jesse’s failed attempts at fighting zombies, before we see the two guys talking in their car when Abigail Breslin (who plays Little Rock) pops out from the backseat with a shotgun and holds it to Woody’s head. “We just got taken hostage by a 12-year-old girl,” he says, to which Jesse quips, “Girls mature faster than boys.” We then get our first glimpse of Emma Stone’s Wichita, who tells them “My sister and I are going to do whatever it takes to survive,” and we get a few scenes of the two women taking out zombies in various ways. We then get a voice-over from Woody saying his mother thought that some day he’d be good at something, and we see his Escalade driving over and over a bunch of zombies lying on the ground. “I don’t think she could have guessed that thing would be zombie killing,” it continues. The car continues to drive forward and backing up over one body getting funnier each time. We see Woody and Jesse about to enter the supermarket and he says, “It’s time to nut up or shut up” and then we see a brief glimpse of Woody Harrelson wielding two chainsaws as Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some” kicks in and we cut to Woody dancing around saying “I love the f*ck out of this song!” Then they’re all driving in the car and Emma asks, “Why don’t we play the Quiet Game?” and Jesse opens his mouth to say something, obviously smitten, and she cuts him off saying, “You’ve never played the Quiet Game?” We see a brief glimpse of Jesse and Emma making out before Woody walks in, interrupting them and asking if they needed any help, to which Jesse later tells him, “You’re like a giant cock-blocking robot developed in a secret government lab.” The trailer ended with the distinctive globe emblazoned with the “Zombieland” logo.
They then brought out Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson and talked about how the project came about, including how Woody had spent most of his career avoiding zombie movies until he read that script. “I thought it was going to be a silly movie,” he said, “but then reading it, I just found it was absolutely riveting. Paul and Rhett the writers, they wrote a page-turner.” The dopey moderator made the obvious connection between Zombieland and Eisenberg’s previous movie Adventureland–he’s going to get that a lot.
They then showed a full clip which began with Jesse’s Columbus in his apartment when he hears a knocking at the door and a frantic female voice saying it’s an emergency, and his voiceover lets us know it’s his “adorable next door neighbor,” played by Amber Heard, who he has never gotten the nerve to even say “hi” to. When he opens the door, she looks generally freaked out, and she thanks him profusely as he asks her in. After she plops down on the couch, he offers her a drink, but it’s Mountain Dew Code Red and Golden Grahams. He sits down next to her as she tells him how she was walking home when some crazy homeless guy started running towards her, but then he tried to bite her. She tells him how she’s scared, but he says he’ll protect her, but she tells him she feels safe and asks if she could close her eyes, as she puts her head on his shoulder and does just that. The voiceover says how he’s always wanted to be in that situation. Fade out and then fade back in and we see her transformed into a zombie, spewing bile out of her mouth as Columbus freaks out, jumps off the couch and starts running away as she starts ambling after him. He first goes into the kitchen and awkwardly wields a blender at her, saying, “I don’t want to hurt you,” but he instead runs into the bathroom and slams the door, hitting her foot so hard it cracks, and he apologizes, but she busts through and keeps clawing at him, so he throws the shower curtain over the head as they struggle. She sticks her blood-red tongue out of a hole in the curtain and he starts hitting her with things at hand, like a loofah sponge. (No effect.) Next, he tries to spray her with some aerosol can close at hand, which does a slightly better job. He then grabs the top of the toilet tank and hits her in the head, runs out the door and closes it before the door knob turns and she pulls it open and starts after him again. He tries to reason with her but when that fails, he swings and hits her with the toilet lid even harder. (The moderator made a lame remark following this like “That’s gotta hurt.”)
After a couple of questions from the audience, they showed a second clip, which was essentially the full scene we watched them shoot in the supermarket–you can read our set report here)–in which Woody and Jesse arrive at a seemingly abandoned supermarket looking for those elusive Twinkies. It starts with them standing outside and Woody saying the “nut up or shut up” line and then they walk in as Jesse’s voiceover talks about what happens when Woody’s Tallahassee “goes Hulk” on a zombie, he “sets a standard” with nothing to fear and nothing to lose, and that it’s “like art.” Woody starts playing “Dueling Banjos” on a banjo and then the first obese zombie comes charging towards them spewing blood from his mouth (accompanied by big rock power chords) and Woody takes the banjo off his shoulder, says the “Deliverance” line about the zombie having a “pretty mouth” and then hits him repeatedly with the banjo. Another zombie comes charging towards Columbus who runs forwards and then slides on his knees as Tallahassee swings and connects with his baseball bat, hitting the second zombie a couple more times for good measure. Columbus is obviously impressed but Tallahassee is already walking down the aisles looking for Twinkies. They see Emma Stone at the back of the supermarket, to which the voiceover says something like “What are the odds of another marriageable woman to bring home to the folks?” She looks at them plaintively and says “Come quick” and she walks to the back of the deli, to which Jesse’s voiceover makes a snarky remark about what kind of danger she might be in. Columbus says “I’ll catch up” and he puts a cement block in the door and the voice-over says “Rule #22: When in Doubt, Know Your Way Out.” He goes in back to the butcher’s area where Tallahassee tells him that there’s a little girl who has been infected, and he introduces Stone’s character Wichita and her little sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The latter looks pretty awful and Columbus doesn’t think she has long and they might want to give her an easier way out, and they start discussing how to do it, Columbus obviously not comfortable with the task, so Little Rock tells him to give Woody the gun, but he also hesitates. Frustrated, Stone finally says, “Wait, I’ll do it” and takes the shotgun from him. She checks to make sure both barrels are full, but she still hesitates and Woody offers to do it again, but then she points the gun at them and commands them to give them their weapons, car keys and everything else. Little Rock jumps off the table where she was sitting, obviously faking having been bitten, and we see a quick splash reel of more scenes from the movie after that point.
The movie generally looks good, like it will be a funny movie with lots of gory zombie kills, but one that really focuses on the relationship between these four people who meet during this global crisis, particularly the unlikely pairing of the brash and boisterous Tallahassee with the neurotic Columbus. For those who haven’t seen some of Eisenberg’s previous movies, like Adventureland and The Squid and the Whale, this should be a great venue for his style of anxiety-filled humor that’s more akin to a young Woody Allen than to Michael Cera, which Eisenberg seems to be getting a lot despite having been acting for many years before Cera. It also looks like the character played by Woody really plays up to his strengths, while allowing him to kick ass in ways we haven’t seen in quite some time. And the zombie make-up and acting looks on par with some of the best movies of the genre.
Zombieland opens everywhere on October 9.
Source: Edward Douglas