The zombie brand is a dying genre. Not quite dead yet – though certainly ‘undead’ – films with zombies as the primary antagonists are less frequently successful than they were in previous decades. The situation with TV is the same, with the once-considered indestructible The Walking Dead suffering dwindling viewership over the course of its gruelling at-current 10 season run.
So, for a sequel to one of the 2000s most popular ‘zomedies’, Zombieland, to crop up 10 years after the first instalment’s release – especially in the current climate – seems admittedly odd. Zombieland: Double Tap, itself a namesake to the second rule to surviving zombies which awkward lead Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) lives by, sees the quartet from the first film reunited once again, constantly adapting to the changing environments of a zombie-infested earth. Their bond is tested to the limits after one of the team goes their own way, while the emergence of a new, evolved breed of zombie threatens the existence of all those who live in this post-apocalyptic world.
To get it out of the way, no: this is not a better film than the first Zombieland. The original’s quirk and unexpected amount of character depth was a pleasant surprise to moviegoers back in 2009, and the novelty certainly isn’t lost in the second. Ruben Fleischer – after a string of misfires with Gangster Squad and Venom – is back to full form with Zombieland: Double Tap, which in itself is a smartly crafted, funny – if familiar – zombie-bashing flick.
The on-screen chemistry between Columbus, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) is admittedly a little less natural than it was a decade ago; so much has changed in the space of time between the films that, naturally, the dynamic has shifted. Harrelson is still a scene-stealer, and the main characteristics of each person are still fundamentally the same, but the team don’t bounce off each other as organically as their last outing.
Yet that’s not to say it’s no longer as delightful to watch; Double Tap may be a step down, but it is by only the smallest of margins. Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay is often witty, clever and slick to the point that it feels like only yesteryear that the previous one was released. Though a long time has passed both on-screen and off, the swish style of the first is still just as evocative here, and the ties between the first and the second – combined with some hilarious throwbacks – make for a wonderfully effortless development of the original film. Double Tap throughout its course consistently proves that the 10-year wait was rewarding; it’s gorier, the new running jokes are just as comical and, despite doubts, there was indeed enough of a story left to tell.
Its self-deprecating humour is arguably one of the greatest joys of the film. Fleischer is aware of the context surrounding Double Tap’s release but consistently manages to make it worth the while, digging at the wider zombie genre in general to add an additional, meta, thematic enhancement.
Zombieland: Double Tap is a rare treat for zombie lovers and a no brainer (pun intended) for any fan of the original, or those looking for a bit of easy comedy escapism this Halloween.