In 2009 I was scared of horror films. I couldn’t even get myself to watch trailers for horror films and would close my eyes and cover my ears when they came on television. (Call me a wimp, but I was nine and didn’t care. Now I do. Don’t hurt my feelings, please?)
One night my siblings brought home a copy of Zombieland. From the next room, where I hid from the presumed horror I heard laughter and thought they must be demented. What could possibly be funny about scary, evil flesh-eating zombies?
Zombieland was a huge hit and became a cult classic. Fusing comedy, horror and fun action made it appeal to teens and young adults. It’s small budget and cast forced it to focus on the characters and compensate with creative laughs and over the top action. And at the core of it all was a load of heart and sincerity.
Zombieland: Double Tap is the long-awaited sequel, with the entire cast and creative team returning. Taking place 10 years after the first film, the pseudo-family of Columbus (Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), continue their zombie hunting adventures. They have grown into an efficient kill team and find themselves trying to build a life in the apocalypse.
Even with the decade gap between films, the cast has no trouble going back into character. The chemistry and dynamics all still exist and feel as fluid as they were in 2009.
But that same gap does provide some story issues. The world and characters have aged 10 years, but behave as if they were only a year or two later. Not much has changed and aside from the characters aging (except Colombus, due to him being played by a perpetual 23-year-old), this film could take place (and I would argue, should take place) two years after the first film. In short: the characters don’t behave in ways to suggest they have been together for 10 years.
The film also struggles to give the characters a threat to deal with. Their hunting skills are machine-like, that the zombies pose no real threat. To compensate, the film does introduce a bigger threat in the second and third acts.
But this threat is almost dealt with at the same pace as the film. Quicker than they were introduced, the new threat goes away, leaving the audience thinking “Was that it then? It seemed like a bigger deal at first.”
It seems to be the issue of pacing. The movie is less a 100 minutes and everything rushes to fit inside. Character’s arcs feel resolved too fast, dramatic moments resolve too quickly and the emotional turnaround can feel like whiplash. If there's an extra 10 minutes of finished footage that was cut from the film, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The film does provide some new locations and its higher budget gives it more scale but I do feel the action is weaker than the first film. The first film was brutal with every sequence and this one feels more distant, almost as the gunfire is on a faraway battlefield. The first made you feel every the crack of every bat against a zombie skull.
There is also a lack of focus to the narrative. The first film is a story of Colombus finding bravery and family in the zombie world. Although this sequel expands on that, Colombus feels less like the main character. This does allow some new characters to gain some spotlight and it is nice to see the character-pool expand.
I feel I have been too negative on the film and I want to say this: The film is still very enjoyable to watch. It’s funny, has a great cast of characters, good performances and some top-notch action. But hardly anything sticks out as an improvement on the first and I wouldn’t expect it to. I wanted fun and this film does give that. It has the same heart and the charm of it still shines through.
Written by Blake Preston