Zombieland: Double Tap
Covering similar territory to the original, this zombie sequel just manages to justify its existence — but the best material comes from its new cast members.
What a delight the original Zombieland was. Led by Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin, and proving witty and wildly creative in handling its gory subject matter, the unconventional zombie road movie breathed new life into a stagnating genre. Featuring playful additions like cutaways to various zombie kills of the week, plus zombie survival rules that were neatly and contextually transposed across the screen during the action, the film paired horror, comedy and a top-notch troupe of actors to deliver an instant cult classic.
Fast-forward ten years and many, many zombie films later, and we get Zombieland: Double Tap (with its name serving up a clever play on its sequel status, as well as referencing rule #2: 'the double tap', aka two shots to a zombie's head to ensure that it's truly dead). From the get-go, Double Tap reminds viewers about its trope-subverting approach, with Eisenberg's voiceover thanking the audience for choosing to watch this movie when there are so many other zombie options out there. Funny, yes, but is our allegiance rewarded? Only just.
With the team now living safely in the White House, Double Tap finds itself in similar territory to season three of The Walking Dead. The zombies no longer represent much of a threat, meaning that the bulk of the tension comes from interpersonal, human-to-human conflict. Of that, there's a lot to choose from. Columbus and Wichita's (Eisenberg and Stone) romance has entered the ho-hum phase, while the de facto father-daughter relationship between Tallahassee and Little Rock (Harrelson and Breslin) is at once suffocating and frustrating, with both eager to head back out in search of adventure (and people their own age). Sure enough, the group soon splits, setting the film up for a rescue mission storyline — because, inevitably, things go awry.
Relegating zombies to the level of mere background nuisance is always a risk, and in Double Tap it doesn't pay off — instead, it sucks much of the energy out of the film. Even the actors seem bored most of the time, leaving it to the movie's new additions to up the ante. Luckily, that's where Double Tap really delivers. Supporting players such as Rosario Dawson, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia, Thomas Middleditch and Zoey Deutch provide periodic shots of cinematic epinephrine, jolting the film back into life each time it begins to fade. Deutch, in particular, delivers a cracking performance as Ugg-booted, tracksuited mall girl ditz Madison, managing to find incredible range for such a one-note role. Her casual invention of Uber (to the mockery of everyone else) is one of the film's funnier and smarter moments, as is the arrival of Wilson and Middleditch, albeit borrowing heavily from Shaun of the Dead.
Directed by the original's Ruben Fleischer (who also helmed last year's Venom), and written by fellow returnees Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick with Godzilla's Dave Callaham, there's just enough in Double Tap to justify its existence, offering smatterings of new material amid the admittedly still amusing trip back to very familiar territory. Stay put, too, for the credits, which gift us a welcome secret cameo from an old favourite.