The house lights finally go down after what seems like an interminable number of trailers. You’re nicely settled in with a heaping helping of delicious popcorn and are eagerly awaiting the start of the movie. The Columbia Pictures logo comes on the screen and… is brutally attacked by zombies! When a movie opens like this, and you get to see a few of the undead getting their butts kicked by the iconic lady with her torch, you know you are in for one heck of a wild ride. That’s exactly what is delivered, along with some undead callbacks, and even a bit of social commentary, in the boisterous Zombieland: Double Tap.
It’s been ten years since we first met Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Kansas City (Abigail Breslin). Their second go ‘round with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and writers Dave Callam (Jean Claude Van Johnson) and Rhett Reese (Deadpool) has maintained the same fun and frenetic energy as the first. We start with the familiar voice-over narration by Columbus and he definitely sounds much more confident. He has grown up a bit over the past decade and provides a much more self-assured (as well as meta) overview of the film’s events. He genuinely thanks the audience for spending time with this particular zombie film and is aware that it exists in world overrun with zombie entertainment. This is not only a fun way to open but can also be viewed as the lead-in to the many nods that Double Tap gives to its undead predecessors.
“[…] absolutely packed to the brim with action, comedy, and of course, zombies.”
Our gang of four has made it this far by amassing knowledge of the different types of zombies. The original survivors, in their search for a forever home, decide to treat themselves by moving their little family in to the most iconic of American houses, The White House. All seems well for a while, but as most zombie tales show us, it’s not always the monsters outside, but the monsters inside that you have to fear. The “monster” here reveals itself in the guise of teenage hormones, as Kansas City begins to rebel against her “father figure” Tallahassee and expresses her wish of finding a boyfriend amidst the chaos. Things are less than blissful for the paired up Columbus and Wichita, who have a bit of a push-me-pull-me going on in their troubled relationship. This all comes to a head when the girls take off on the guys in a sneaky late night departure, leaving nothing more for their longtime companions than a hastily worded note. Kansas City ups the family drama ante even further when she then ditches Wichita for the hippie poser Berkley (Avan Jogia), forcing the trio to reunite once again.
Throughout the absolute fun of Double Tap, I couldn’t help but to take note of the potential message given by the filmmakers here. Even amidst the camp and gore, this Zombieland sequel seems to be taking a direct stand on the state of American society. That the team decided to take refuge in a virtually untouched White House with a prominent shot of Barack Obama’s famous “Hope” poster as the voiceover refers to the “happiest time of his life” did not go unnoticed. That a plethora of guns were melted down and (mostly) unnecessary at a climactic and pivotal point in the movie might very well be a direct commentary on American gun culture. Since their inception, zombie movies have been a reflection of our culture at large, putting the good, bad, and ugly under a spotlight and Double Tap absolutely carries the torch of the undead as social commentators.
When the stalwart survivors hit the road to rescue their runaway Kansas City, they meet a whole host of side characters, including the blissfully dumb but sweet Madison (Zoey Deutch) who’s been hiding out in a mall “Dawn of the Dead style”. We also find Nevada (Rosario Dawson), who is the through-the-looking glass version of Wichita, Tallahassee’s doppelgänger Albuquerque (Luke Wilson), and finally Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) as the double of Columbus, complete with his own set of “commandments” in lieu of the original “rules”. This is an extended version of the scene in Edgar Wright’s fantastic zombie comedy in which the original group of six weary survivors come across a complete matching set of characters. The scene is fun, well-executed, and packs quite a punch as it comes to its fantastic close, which provides one of the most exciting scenes in the film.
Throughout the fantastic rollercoaster ride of a movie, the one negative of Double Tap is that you have to suspend disbelief for more than a few scenes. Our narrator takes the time to explain that the film’s updated zombies are deadly due to their strength, speed, resilience, and brain function but then all of that mostly falls by the wayside in a few pivotal scenes. Also the close calls that our main group get into are just a little bit too close, as we can see zombie jaws snapping just a hair’s length away from our protagonist’s limbs yet they never make contact. That said, even this flaw can be seen as part of the film’s character in that it is a campy and meta romp through the apocalypse. It knows that it is a silly zombie movie and acts as such, even as it maintains its reverence for the genre.
“[Zombieland: Double Tap] knows that it is a silly zombie movie and acts as such, even as it maintains its reverence for the genre.”
Zombieland: Double Tap ends as it begins, with a great surprise, so be sure to stay hunkered down with whatever popcorn remnants you have left for the mid and end credits scenes. This movie is absolutely packed to the brim with action, comedy, and of course, zombies. There are surely some easter eggs that I’ve missed so not only I am looking forward to watching this one again, but I also highly recommend hitting the theaters to check out this fun bit of zombie escapism.
Zombieland: Double Tap is out in theaters now. If you’ve had a chance to take it all in, let us know what you thought on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!