Fleischer doesn't skimp on the gore, which should delight horror fans. There's a ghoulishly funny credits sequence--told in slow motion and reminiscent of "Watchmen's" opening--where we watch the undead menace overtake the world and the zombies here are fast, furious and hungry for blood. Gorehounds may be upset that Fleischer steers clear of Romero-esque zombie carnage (very little over-the-top killing here), instead filming the zombie films more like a traditional action film, but they'll still giggle when Columbus runs from the hot chick next door who's turned into a zombie or when Tallahassee grabs his tools for a little zombie slaying action. There's a nice balance of traditional scares and laughs, sometimes within the same scene.
But the humor is not all jet-black and morbid. At its core, "Zombieland" is a simple story of a young man encountering a makeshift family. As such, there's a lot of sweet character based humor, such as when Little Rock learns to drive or Columbus's bumblings trying to woo Wichita. Eisenberg seems at first to be aping the social awkwardness that Michael Cera does so well but he has an intelligence and self-awareness that he makes his own; he's less George Michael Bluth and more Woody Allen.
Harrelson, a fine actor in search of a superstar role, has a glint in his eye throughout the whole movie, the smirk on his face showing just how much he loves playing the one-liner spouting, uzi-toting zombie slayer. He's funny in the role, even if Tallahassee's search for a Twinkie grows a tad too precious. Having a serious actor in the role gives the film a credibility it wouldn't have with, say, Bruce Campbell in the lead and there's a revelation about Tallahassee halfway through that a weaker actor may not be able to make work in an otherwise frivolous movie.
The movie will be compared over and again to "Shaun of the Dead," and "Zombieland" does lack the skill and wit with which Edgar Wright mixed up genres in that classic. Columbus and Tallahasee are fun characters, but they lack the believability of Shaun and Ed and, to be honest, the scary moments are much scarier in the British film. "Zombieland" goes for every available joke, making sure to skewer everything from Facebook to Dale Earnhart as it darts across country and not every gag works. Where "Shaun" is a bona fide great movie--a perfect mix of horror and comedy--"Zombieland" flirts with guilty pleasure territory, saved by the exuberance of its cast and Fleischer's desire to simply give audiences a good time.
And for the majority of its brief 82-minute run time, the film delivers on that promise. It's fast, funny and original and manages to successfully blend horror and comedy--something that is harder to do than most people realize. Also...don't let anyone spoil the film's big surprise...you'll know it when you see it, and it's easily the best use of a cameo I've seen in ages.