If you loved Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 zombie flick Zombieland, I have good news. The new sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, delivers everything you enjoyed in the first movie and slightly more. We’re talking about a film where an Italian man uses a crank to tip the Tower of Pisa over on some ghouls and then caps it off with a, “fanc*lo!”
Double Tap brings the entire Zombieland gang back together for more zombie-slaying hijinks, but not for long. The first film took place only a couple months into the zombie apocalypse, with the world still in transition. Double Tap picks up a decade later, with the apocalypse in full swing. Wichita (Emma Stone), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) are a well-honed zombie-smashing unit. But they’re still dysfunctional as a make-shift family.
The crew journey to Washington D.C. to zombie-proof the White House and make it their permanent home. But it’s not long before fear of commitment and wanderlust set in. Wichita and Little Rock take off in the night and leave the guys behind.
While on the road, Little Rock falls for a sketchy musician named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and sneaks off without telling Wichita. But Little Rock’s emancipation couldn’t come at a worse time. There’s a new breed of zombie, deemed T-800s, and when it comes to hunting humans, these brain-munchers ain’t f*cking around. They’re stronger, smarter, and harder to kill, and sure to make short work of Little Rock. Wichita recruits Tallahassee and Columbus, along with a blonde airhead named Madison (Zoey Deutch), to hit the road and track down Little Rock. And along the way, they’ll have to mend their feelings and put aside their differences if they plan on staying alive.
The Zombieland movies still stand out from the glut of zombie flicks that Hollywood has churned out over the past decade. These films don’t have the bleak tone and joyless world of The Walking Dead, World War Z, and 28 Days Later. And even though Zombieland movies are comedies, they still feature intense dramatic stakes.
Zombieland movies pull this trick off because of how they depict the pliability of the human spirit. People have a way of adapting to the worst conditions. And in their own silly way, these movies capture this aspect of humanity’s tribal nature. Although civilization, as we know it has come to an end, life carries on. And the characters in these films aren’t solemn downers who can’t move past what they lost. The world has changed, and they’ve found their new groove by taking fate’s lemons and turning it into lemonade.
I enjoy Zombieland’s world but not the characters who inhabit it, or at least the ones we spend time with. These four characters are dicks who can’t stand each other, so don’t get on me for not wanting to spend time with them either. After all, the plot point driving this film centres on the characters feeling the need to go their own way.
Double Tap is supposed to be about a rag-tag family, who stay together in the end, despite their differences. But the film never earns this distinction. These characters are a family because the characters literally tell us so. The problem is, the movie never shows us why it’s true. When the characters finally learn to accept each other by the end of the story, they haven’t transformed into better people. They just fall back into their old patterns.
I’m all for returning to this movie’s universe, but I would like to see it centre on new protagonists and in a different director’s hands. Under Fleischer, these characters feel cruel and mean-spirited. I love movies and TV shows where the main characters are total bastards. But in Zombieland, there’s no kernel of humanity beneath their prickly facades.
The beating heart of this film is pumping piss and vinegar. A prime example is the way it plays Madison’s stupidity for laughs. And again, I get that the attractive dummy is a comedy staple – I grew up laughing at Kelly Bundy, Chrissy Snow, and Hilary Banks. But Fleischer takes the joke too far, and all the dummy-shaming becomes cruel and unnecessary. The film keeps demeaning the character without allowing her an opportunity to redeem herself – and slaying a zombie or two doesn’t cut it. It comes across as hateful.
This film also takes shots at millennials and Generation Z. It paints them as a group of naïve pacifists who are out of touch with reality. Their clueless decision to ignore the zombie threat ends up bringing a ravenous horde to their doorstep. Optimistic millennials and their belief that they can will a better life into existence is an intriguing theme that I wish the film explored. But Double Tap isn’t interested in using the premise for anything other than some easy gags.
Double Tap is a gore-hounds wet-dream. It’s full of grisly imagery and vicious audio queues; decapitated heads soar through the air, and you hear every crunch as zombies chow down on their victim’s tendons. This movie even features one of the goriest images I’ve seen since Midsommar – a character stomps a zombie’s skull into strawberry jelly. DP Chung-hoon Chung has worked on some dark films (Oldboy, Thirst, Stoker), and he does an excellent job balancing this film’s alternating tones. He adeptly captures the dystopic world’s muted colour palette in one scene, and the ebullient kitsch-factor pulsing through an Elvis museum in the next. And it all looks splendid.
Zombieland: Double Tap is the perfect follow-up for fans of the first movie. Fleischer delivers a zombie gore-fest full of quippy heroes, intense action sequences, and callbacks to the last film. And if you still haven’t caught up with Zombieland, Double Tap is a fine entry point. You can figure out the series’ lore in about two minutes.
Although I enjoyed Zombieland when I discovered it in 2009, I’m ready to jump ship. I have little patience for the series’ mean characters, exhausted themes, and irreverent humour. Unlike the characters in the film, I’ve done a lot of growing in the last ten years.