Zombieland: Double Tap is in cinemas across the UK from today.
A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.
Back in 2009 the zombie landscape looked drastically different. The Walking Dead existed only in comic book form and all eyes were instead on a little indie film by director Ruben Fleischer (Venom).
Zombieland revolutionised the genre in a way The Walking Dead can only dream of. It took the zombie movie and created an near-satire of itself. It didn’t take itself seriously and treated its subject matter with bombastic style.
It was pure Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (both Deapool & Deadpool 2) and showcases all of their trademarks. But what made the movie such a success was its reverence for zombie horror and four incredibly charismatic leads.
Double Tap doubles down on its reliance on those leads, in some cases literally, but also doubles down on it’s zombie mythology.
What surprised me most going back in to the cinema ten years later was how much the premise still feels fresh. Zombieland arguably did as much as it could based on its idea and I genuinely couldn’t see how Double Tap could do anything other than repeat those same tropes.
In some cases it does repeat those tropes from the first film, but it also injects enough fresh material keep it feeling funny and unique. Once again its the chemistry between Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jessie Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin which anchors the film.
Double Tap introduces some fresh blood in the form of Madison (Zoey Deutch – Set It Up). She absolutely steals the show when she is on screen with Deutch chewing the scenery almost as much as a zombie finding a fresh victim. Madison is instantly a quotable pop culture icon who easily stands up against Tallahassee, Columbus and Wichita.
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil) also makes a huge impact as Nevada. This is a Dawson allowed to throw off the shackles and have some fun and it felt like it whenever she was on screen. Her third act, saves-the-day moment is filled with some gory, childish glee and I loved every second of it.
There’s still plenty for each of the four leads to do though. Both individually and as a group there are new challenges to overcome and proverbial mountains to climb.
It’s Little Rock who has changed the most which is absolutely to be expected given how much Abigail Breslin has grown in the intervening 10 years. Although she has less to do in Double Tap her character is at its emotional centre.
The film needed a reason to break the core characters out of their comfort zone and given the aforementioned decade which has passed the most sensible and genuine option was to have Little Rock break away to go find people her own age.
With comedy as its foundation Zombieland is able to take liberties with its storytelling that other films in the genre are not. A prime example being how the film is able to portray a romanticised version of the world post-apocalypse where cars still run – just about – and electricity isn’t an issue thanks to dams and rain.
The overall story of Double Tap makes this more of a road movie than its predecessor. There’s a need for each of the core cast to find a family and find a home and much of the runtime is dedicated to doing that.
It’s a surprisingly heartfelt in a film filled with gory fight sequences and multiple expletives. But somehow, without ever losing that brash edge, the film is really able to make us care for Columbus and the gang.
Part of that is down to not milking the characters over the last decade. There’s an element of nostalgia for that first film which is very welcome whilst watching Double Tap. But at the same time Reese and Wernick have been able to make the characters likeable. Flawed but extremely likeable.
Double Tap is also able to build a number of dramatic moments and even a scare or two along the way. Its third act takes a lot of inspiration from the original Zombieland but regurgitates it in a way which makes it feel sufficiently different. This time all the characters are on the – metaphorical – fairground ride.
Seeing the family come together, accept their differences and save the Babylon community was a fitting end but one which ultimately doesn’t feel epic enough. If we never see these characters again I feel that this end will not be remembered as having the scope the characters deserved.
There are also a couple of suitably clunky moments in the script which make the story predictable. The award for clunker-of-the-week goes to Madison’s “death”. After a very obvious shot alluding to her being bitten she begins to “turn” in the mini-van only seconds after we see her eating trail mix and Columbus is left to give her the Doubletap. That moment happens off-screen leaving it inevitable that the character will return later in the film.
It’s hugely obvious what had really happened but as low points go it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen in the film.
Zombieland: Double Tap makes great use of its bigger budget. The first film relied heavily on indie sensibilities and those do remain in Double Tap. Rather than shooting for the stars it augments those indie moments with more luscious scenery and more complex zombie kills.
From a production standpoint the film is absolutely an improvement on the first in terms of technique as the world of filmmaking has moved on a lot in a decade. But none of the changes feel disingenuous to the premise and it will leave you feeling incredibly satisfied.
Zombieland: Double Tap is gory, irreverent and unequivocally hilarious. A surprisingly original and, at times, heartfelt sequel which honours the original and pushes its boundaries.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Zombieland: Double Tap stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch.