Last week, the guys discussed which zombie film had the best zombies, and this week continue the discussion for your reading enjoyment.
Chris: Want to know a secret about me? I can’t stand horror movies. Be they slashers, B-grade, or of the monster variety, I really can’t muster up a single crap to give. I’ve seen all 7 Saw movies, not because I thought they were good (well…first one is fine), but because it was a blast to watch my friend Other Chris watch them. But sit me down and ask me to watch something like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or anything with a guy in a monster suit and I will be utterly bored to tears, especially if I’m supposed to have fun with how bad a movie is and that’s why it’s “good.”
I tell you this because zombies as they generally appear in movies are utterly boring. I don’t get jazzed by seeing people holed-up, struggling to survive for days on end with little food. I’ve read The Walking Dead through volume 11 and while I think it’s written amazingly, I also wanted at least one moment where I was allowed to have fun. Hence why last week’s debate about Best Zombie Movie Ever had me firmly in love with Zombieland.
Maybe I should have expected it a bit, but the majority of commenters don’t just love Shaun of the Dead, they actively hate anyone who doesn’t, which I couldn’t quite get. Oh don’t misunderstand, I get why people love the movie. It’s smartly written, smartly acted, and smartly directed. I would absolutely watch it again, no questions asked. But when someone has a dissenting opinion, man, it gets the blood of some people boiling fast.
To better explain my choice for Zombieland, as I’ve been building up to, zombies and by extension all monsters or non-human enemies fail to excite me just by virtue of existing, but the experience of totally wasting said zombies, monsters, or non-human enemies can give my adrenaline levels a huge boost. That final sequence of Zombieland where Woody Harrelson goes around the amusement park mowing through wave after wave of the undead is the quintessential example of what we’d all actually love to do if a zombie apocalypse ever did occur and it happened to follow the magical made-up rules we put on it. You can disagree with whether you liked the movie or the scene, but I refuse to believe you wouldn’t rather be on that roller coaster than holed-up in a pub without a chance of survival.
Think of the recent Call of Duty games for a moment. It’s become standard to add a zombie survival mode to those. Why is that? Is it because we want some survival-horror elements with our first-person shooters? No, it’s because capping Nazi zombies is stupid-fun, yo! Same applies to Resident Evil 4, Dead Rising, and Left 4 Dead. Those are games that make zombie murder fun. Zombieland is the movie equivalent of that for me, akin to how The Avengers was able to make being the Hulk fun again.
So can you like a different movie? Absolutely. Our show isn’t here to be the end-all answer to pop culture questions but merely one possible way for them to play out. But am I any less of a person for loving Zombieland over Shaun of the Dead? Not at all. And the same goes for loving Dead Snow. Nazi zombies in Norway? Ja! Jeg liker Død Snø! Det er greit! Jeg kan snakke norsk! (Men, jeg er ikke så god.) And thus, I have either delighted or enraged Norwegian viewers. I feel my work here is done.
Kyle: The obvious argument against Shaun of the Dead is that it’s a romantic comedy that just happens to have zombies in it. I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. After all, most of the Romero zombie flicks are your basic survival-horror affairs, and the monster happens to be zombies.
Besides, Zombieland is a bro-mantic comedy that just happens to have zombies, so it’s a moot point.
Honestly, I love both movies. But every time I watch Shaun I see something new and geeky and awesome that I’ve never seen before. There are references to classic zombie flicks like I mentioned, there’s the really unnoticeable allusions to Shaun’s former career as a DJ, and there’s the subtle phone conversations that Nick Frost is having with Noel, Shaun’s coworker. Zombieland is tons of fun, but I got every joke and visual the first time around. And even really funny movies are never the same as the first viewing.
Oh, and one thing that I forgot to mention during the debate is that Zombieland was originally written as a television show. This, in my opinion, is very apparent in the pacing of the movie. It is clear that the grocery store was supposed to be the final act of the pilot. I’d say Shaun has the pacing of a real, honest-to-god horror movie, but the jokes of … well, an Edgar Wright movie. Best of both worlds.
And if there’s one thing that a zombie movie needs, it is a memorable arsenal. Sure, Woody had a serious collection of weapons at his disposal, but Shaun’s cricket bat has entered the hall of fame of horror weapons, right next to Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw and Jason’s machete. It just has more personality and more comedic overtones. I know that guns are kewl, but as Shaun of the Dead pointed out when the boys started firing the Winchester rifle, it is not the most practical weapon … unless you are going to hit moving targets right in the head one hundred percent of the time.
Really, blunt instruments that put a lot of power into a small contact area (like a golf club) would be ideal. And easier to maintain. You never really see the hours upon hours that Woody has to spend to keep that one sawed-off rifle clean. And while the banjo was funny, it was a throwaway joke. Maybe Zombie Kill of the Week, but not exactly hall of fame material.
Can I just sign off by suggesting that everyone cool out and get a grip about our choices, by the way? These are two movies that are highly comparable. These two … that’s a debate. What are we gonna do? Compare Romero’s Dawn of the Dead with Snyder’s? Nope. This was more fun. End of story.
Dan: People have accused us of picking Zombieland due to our country of birth. It’s fair to say that our peer group would influence our general tastes, but Shaun of the Dead is “Americanized” enough to transcend any regional tastes. I also want to be clear about something … Shaun of the Dead is a great movie. It has drama, it has romance, it has comedy, and once and a while it has zombies. But no matter how stupid people think we are for not picking it as a winner, just take a look at the movie poster. A romantic comedy with zombies. Even they know that it is more a general good movie with a horror backdrop than a horror movie with rich layers. Their words, not mine. Zombieland was made with the thought in mind that flashes in my head during every zombie movie, including Shaun of the Dead, “Why is that person who just got bit, and knows what happens when you get bit, not sucking it up and protecting the ones they love by separating themselves from the group?”
Think about every zombie movie, and how we see the same tropes over and over again. Someone tries to hide a bite. Food is scarce. Shelter is something always under attack. These are things that get old, and is exactly why audiences are getting tired (hopefully) of the whole zombie genre. Shaun of the Dead didn’t avoid these tropes, they reinforced them with a bit of meta humor. Shaun’s mom hides a bite, they all go to the pub which provides them little food and unreliable shelter, yada yada. Zombieland never has a moment where shelter is a problem, in fact they find some pretty posh cribs. No one ever complains about food, and killing zombies is never paused by that moral “But they used to be human!” garbage. It is a zombie movie made by people who have seen a zombie movie, and it’s fantastic.
They had rules, which were not only great, but highlighted why these survivors were still around. I feel that Shaun was only still around because of dumb luck, not because of any extra survival skills. I want my hero to live because they kick ass, not because they just keep throwing their friends at the zombies first.
With all that off my chest, hopefully some of you see why Zombieland was picked, not just as a crap movie we like, but as a quality zombie movie that breathed new life into the genre. That being said, Fido is fantastic, the remake of Dawn of the Dead still freaks me out, and I still need to watch Dead Snow, but I hear that it’s fun.
As for the points, this one was pretty straight forward, save for one point. Did I give a point to Chris for bringing up the Bill Murray cameo? No. I gave it to the film for working the cameo in so perfectly. As mentioned in the debate, a Twinkie was motivation for Woody Harrelson. In a strangely deep monologue, he says that soon all the Twinkies will be gone, and he wants to eat one before they’re extinct. He doesn’t want to restart society, he’s given up on that. He just wants one more nostalgic bite. Then they find Bill Murray, and Jesse “Facebook” Eisenberg watches Ghostbusters with the girl from Little Miss Sunshine. Mainly for the same motivation, as films and pop culture in general are going to fade away just like the yellow cake. And what scene do they show briefly from the movie to sum up Ghostbusters? That’s right, the scene where they compare the surge in paranormal activity to a big Twinkie. And they are eating Twinkies. And Woody is looking for a Twinkie. It was all one big perfect metaphor for them being sad that the world they knew is gone, and soon not only will they not have the means to revisit, but their memories will be more and more untranslatable to the new generation, assuming there is one.
Did I just blow your minds on how deep that cameo was? Deal with it. Boom.