Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
List Price
$19.99
Amazon
$9.99 (50%)
3rd Party
$7.00
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Zombieland

Street Date:
February 2nd, 2010
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
January 24th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Sony Pictures
Length:
88 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The living dead rock my socks, fill my daydreams, and even my fully aware moments. I can't get enough of the undead. They can run if they want, and I'll still run to them with open (likely to be eaten) arms, but there's a very special place in my (likely to be eaten) heart for the shambling, dragging, reanimated corpses of old. They can bellow a desire for my (likely to be eaten) brains, or simply moan as they stalk, alone or in mass, as the most persistent predator ever imagined. They can invade any piece of classic literature ('Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,' anyone?) they want. Really, zombies can do whatever the hell they want, any time, and I'd welcome it as openly as I'd welcome a real world zombie apocalypse. It'd sure beat the monotonous nonsense currently labeled "news," that's for sure.

The latest (and according to some, greatest) bestowment of "unmentionable" goodness got the best publicity in the world before audiences even knew what they were in for. The star of the film, Woody Harrelson, attacked a paparazzi in an airport, and later explained he thought the over-eager photographer was a zombie. If any zombie film can convince its actors, the ones who repeat scenes over and over, and see the work put into creating the creatures, that zombies are real, then you know you're in for a treat. That, or Harrelson is just that damn crazy. Pick one.

"It's been two months since patient zero took a bite of a contaminated burger at a Gas and Gulp." Yes, the cause for the outbreak is known. The planet's human population has dwindled to nothingness. What few have survived in this new land, this Zombieland, have to fear what lurks around every corner, be they zombie or human. The others must have survived somehow, they must be crafty at least.

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg, 'Adventureland') is the ultimate scaredy cat, afraid to stray from his strict rules for surviving the zombie armageddon. So far, it's worked out well for the nerdy virgin, as not even his irritable bowel syndrome has gotten in the way of his continued existence. After hooking up with his polar opposite, the sadistic zombie slaying bastard Tallahassee (Harrelson), the two begin a journey to try to find their loved ones. A chance encounter with two scheming women (Emma Stone as Wichita, Abigail Breslin ('Little Miss Sunshine') as Little Rock) sets the foursome in search of a zombie free land, rumored to be located at Pacific Playland, your stereotypical amusement park in California. Their trek will be perilous (and hilarious), the odds against them a million or two to four...five, if you count a chance encounter with celebrity.

I'd rather see a world of disintegration be humorous than fast paced, but with 'Zombieland,' I got a mixture of both. These zombies are fast, determined. They can climb ladders or fences, anything in their path, for a nice, warm, raw meal. They're fairly stereotypical modern zombies, low on tension and jump scares, but high on danger, especially when in groups. Hardly the first zomedy (both 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Dead Alive' did it first...and better), 'Zombieland' is a success for its dark tone, with some accompanying dark humor to keep things interesting rather than bleak.

I'll admit, I did have a few hearty laughs, probably from the absurdity of some of the situations the characters find themselves in (or, more likely, from the absurdity from the absurdity of the actions of the main characters). I also was riveted by the fantastic zombie killing sequences, which were top notch. What just didn't do it for me was the pace. At a brisk 88 minutes, including credits, 'Zombieland' lurches like a zombie of old, progressing so slowly that the film feels so much longer. The character development isn't sudden and out of nowhere, but it takes an awful long time, when the characters and their motivations are known early. The entire second act has a bare minimum in terms of zombie action, and that's a real buzz kill for a film of this genre. The fact that the final act goes balls to the wall with constant butchery of the former living doesn't make up for lost time, when the film wanders away from its purpose.

Harrelson deserves zero blame on the shortcomings of the film, as he is pitch perfect in his role, the obvious bright and shining star. Amber Heard is stupendous in her single scene, while the celebrity cameo (not spoiling it, though a trip to the IMDb will) was a bit underwhelming and predictable. If anything, my biggest gripe with the film has to be Eisenberg. In his second comedy-in-an-amusement-park film in a year, he is hardly a relatable character to begin with, but his limited range is aggravating at best. Breslin was a pleasant surprise, to be sure, as she appears light years removed from her breakout role.

Whine as I will about the shortcomings of 'Zombieland,' that is more than likely because I set the bar so high with my possibly unreachable expectations. This film is infected with humor, with some truly disturbing kills (with only one, in the park, seeming out of place due to poor CGI), and constant blazing gunfire and action (to the point that one has to wonder if these actors put in a cheat code so that their guns would never run out of ammo). Overanalyze the film, and disappointment may arise, but take it at face value, hoping for gore and guffaws, and 'Zombieland' may very well hit the spot.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Of all the new release films I would have expected demo material from, 'Zombieland' is nowhere near the top of that list. Damn was I wrong. The AVC MPEG-4 encode (at 1080p) provided this zomedy has spots of sheer and utter perfection, while the flaws are few and far between.

Crisp, amazing fine object detail. Infinite backgrounds that retain their clarity. Bold, striking colors that stay true to their hue. Blood and glass splashes visible to even the tiniest drop or shard. That's how I like my Blu-ray, and that's what 'Zombieland' delivers. The slow motion sequences are as demo as demo can be, with a title sequence worthy of replay for its beauty alone. Grain levels are non existent, while the picture has a fantastic three dimensional quality. Facial features are never obscured, constantly popping right off the screen. Whites are clean and never blown out, blacks are inky and rich, with superb shadow detail. This is zombie heaven. The only concerns I had was a few moments with light aliasing, and a recurring orange tone in skin tones, though it wasn't all that frequent. I'm beyond ecstatic that 'Zombieland' looks this damn good, and while not perfect, it's sure to impress and satiate fans.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

While the audio for 'Zombieland' didn't catch me as off guard as the video did, it still is a pretty damn solid track, presented by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (with an equally lossless French dub, and an English Descriptive Audio track).

Dialogue is always clear, always natural, though, sadly, almost always coming from the front channels. The soundtrack is the reason for a hefty chunk of the bass presence in the film, but it is appropriate and never overblown. There is some light movement through speakers, though localization effects are somewhat slim. The rears best use in this sound mix is to fill the room with zombie sounds, create a sense of urgency (success!). This track sports great dynamic range, with screaming highs and some fairly nice low end noises that are always accurate and never distorted. It's enjoyable, and immersive, just not quite stellar.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary - With Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Ruben Fleischer, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick. This track covers the production and original draft of the film, including removed rules, and is full of on set anecdotes and praise. There are a few gaps in coverage, and honestly the track is lacking in humor and real interest. A bad track.
  • In Search of 'Zombieland' (HD, 16 min) - Every disc needs an EPK feature, right? Anyways, this extra covers cast and crew thoughts on the film itself, the adaptation of pilot to feature, praise thrown left and right, and then again right to left. Honestly, skip this feature and move on to the next. Nothing all that insightful to be found here.
  • 'Zombieland' is Your Land (HD, 12 min) - A behind the scenes feature with interviews from cast and crew. Set construction and design is featured, as well as some basic themes in the film. A fun look at the film, and the progression from the original idea to the final product.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 min) - This set of axed scenes includes the Ziploc bags rule, Columbus freaking out and reacting to his first zombie attack, the girls discussing what they've done when they stole the Hummer, some carnival games, and a scene with some visible boom mic, yeah! These scenes don't bring the funny, in any way, so their exclusion is welcome.
  • Visual Effects Progression Scenes (HD, 2 min) - A look at scenes, going from unfinished effects and green screens, to placement and timing of digital effects, to final look. The opening Washington shot, as well as the flung from a vehicle shot and the supermarket kills are dissected, while the death from the tower is shown as well. A fast and furious (and silent) look at how the effects were made.
  • Theatrical Promo Trailers (HD, 6 min) - A compilation of promotional segments from the film featuring Eisenberg and Harrelson joking around, answering mock zombie questions.
  • Previews Trailers for 'Black Dynamite,' 'The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,' 'Universal Soldier: Regeneration,' 'Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season,' 'Ghostbusters,' 'Michael Jackson's This Is It,' 'Snatch,' and 'Night of the Creeps,' as well as a generic BD promo that no one who owns Blu-ray, and has seen the trailer in front of every Sony Blu-ray should ever select.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

The exclusive extras on this release hammer home the need to buy this edition on Blu-ray, rather than DVD.

  • Playstation 3 Theme - Not advertised anywhere on the package, if you put the 'Zombieland' disc in your Playstation 3, under the game tab there is an option to download a 'Zombieland' theme, which makes icons red, and includes a rotating background of some of the pieces of promotional art for the film. Very cool.
  • Beyond the Graveyard - Picture-in-Picture Track - This picture in picture track has pop ups containing shots from the Visual Effects Progression Scenes extra, cast and crew interviews, animatics, behind the scenes footage, and storyboards. The biggest problem with this track is how long it lingers on scenes that have come and passed, leaving many shots completely covered, that could have used some PiP coverage. That said, there's amazing coverage, large as it is (about 1/4 of the screen), and watching this track makes most of the extras on the disc redundant. A solid track, flawed as it is.
  • BD-Live - Hop online with BD-Live. There are no 'Zombieland' related extras, just a standard Sony portal.
  • MovieIQ - A BD-Live enhanced trivia track of sorts, viewing 'Zombieland' with MovieIQ enabled allows you to check out filmographies of cast and crew, as well as find out some production tidbits, or other random semi-related bits of information. Worst bit of info discovered? Screenwriter Rhett Reese is responsible for 'Cruel Intentions 3.' Painful, just painful.
  • Digital Copy - The second disc of this release contains a digital copy for the film, compatible with both Windows and Mac. Disc one has a digital copy, as well, with a separate code, for use with the PSP.

Final Thoughts

I could care less if I never visited Thailand or Graceland. I friggen' hate Candyland, but am strangely enamored with Ben Folds' Jesusland. 'Zombieland?' I'd visit it in a second. I see myself revisiting the film often, as the one liners and sheer absurdity are so over the top they're out of this world, in a good way, even if the film is flawed. The presentation for the Blu-ray release is far from dead, and is honestly quite revitalizing. 'Shaun of the Dead,' this may not be, but many will find this American zomedy to be superior, and with rumors of a sequel already gaining legs, it seems this won't be our only trip to the desolate world of the dead. Highly Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD50 Dual Layer Disc
  • 2- Disc Set
  • Digital Copy
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • AVC MPEG-4/1080p

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Audio Descriptive Service

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French

Supplements

  • Commentary with actors Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, director Ruben Fleischer, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
  • Go Behind-the-Scenes with “In Search of Zombieland”
  • “Zombieland is Your Land”: The zombification of the United States
  • Deleted scenes
  • Visual effects progression scenes
  • Theatrical promo trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • “Beyond the Graveyard”: Behind-the-scenes picture-in-picture track (BD-exclusive)
  • movieIQ
  • PS3 Wallpaper

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$19.99
Amazon
$9.99 (50%)
3rd Party
$7.00
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»