“Time to nut up or shut up”

Zombies continue to be hot. The current boom in zombiephilia may have some of its roots in the literary realm, from the horror of Brian Keene’s The Rising to the comic ridiculousness of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They have had a parallel surge in film, from the “fast zombies” of 28 Days Later again to the comedy of Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland is very much in the comedic tradition.

The movie review in a sentence: Zombieland delivers on what the trailer promises. Opening with the image of Earth turned into a vision of Apokalips (a present to us comic book geeks) due to a virus, we are introduced to our hero, Columbus. He’s a neurotic, over-cautious, nerd (Jesse Eisenberg, Adventureland, The Squid and the Whale) who has managed to survive due to being a loner as well as by the system of rules he created.

“I’ve always been a bit of a loner.” –Columbus

As he longs to return to Columbus, Ohio to find his family, he comes across Tallahassee (an exuberant Woody Harrelson) who prefers to go by place names, because real ones get you too emotionally attached. The loss he suffered in the post-human reality has transformed Tallahassee into a road warrior who revels in taking out zombies in the most brutal and creative ways possible.

The pair, who gradually come to, at least not annoy each other completely, are completely flummoxed and bamboozled by two young sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone, Superbad) and 12 year old Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, My Sister’s Keeper), in apparent distress.

“When you’re afraid of everything out there, you quit going out there.” –Columbus

Columbus found a lot of things disturbing, from people to clowns, becoming a paranoid shut in. Except part of him still longed to be a part of a family. Columbus treated people like zombies to be avoided even before they were flesh eating monsters. The plague of the 21st century has reduced people to a hateful, violent case of the munchies.

“Without other people you might as well be a zombie.” –Columbus

Zombies are the ideal monsters, perfect to illustrate our dehumanization. These creatures portray a resurrection to walking death. A similar metaphor is found in the case of Frankenstein and the curse of the Mummy. They are the living dead, with no hope, only the eternal existence in a “body of death” (Romans 7:24). They are particular reminders that there are worse things than death.

Storytelling wise, there is nothing present in these monsters to imprint a character on. They are relentless aggression, hunger, and need. So the story has to be about the “humans” surviving. On the flip side, you can do anything you want to them, revel in the brutality of the kills without guilt, because they aren’t human only animated desire. They aren’t even alive.

Like in the movie Slither, this virus like the nature of sin, is an infection that spreads and grows almost like a conscious disease. Because of the introduction of sin, the created order is disrupted, neither humanity (once infected with sin) nor creation are as they are meant to be. This virus transforms us, our way of life, our way of prioritizing what is important, our ways of thinking and going about life. Rage, fear, and insatiable desire seeking to be quenched only leads to a spiral of death.

“I don’t know what’s more tragic: that I have no family or that I didn’t have much of a family to begin with.” –Columbus

Columbus, even Witchita and Little Rock, all want to head home, be it Columbus or Pacific Playland (an amusement park they believe is zombie free). They want a sense of family and their hope is to find their way home. And while they do whatever it takes to survive, life can’t just be about survival. It has to be about living. The solution is relational, as they try to be with whatever family they can carve out.

“I hope you find whoever it is you’re looking for.” –Wichita

Despite having nowhere else to go, they can’t find what they want, not knowing their way home. They are surrounded by the really sick, with the dehumanizing spiral reducing people to relentless aggression and hunger and insatiable need. We’re defined by the world and the loud voices who want us to buy into lies about ourselves. If we’re hurting and chase a high to numb ourselves from the pain or feel a sense of peace, we’re unable to full experience life. And these have inner consequences as we end up running further and further away from home and the less we’re able to hear the voice of the one who loves and speaks love to us.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re all looking for a home where we could feel safe. A place of belonging and rest. Home. In God we have an invitation to intimacy, to a safe place to call home. God has made His home, a place for us to return to, a place He calls us to.

“I wasn’t the only one running from something.” –Columbus

Horror and humor are a delicate balance, with one of the best examples being the Evil Dead movies. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have written for Spike and MTV and get by on the kind of snarky banter and self-referential pop cultural allusions seen on Gilmore Girls. This was the debut feature for director Ruben Fleischer and the movie gets style points for its wonderful videogame-esque violence. I loved Zombieland, though now it has me worried that H1N1 may turn my kids into intestine munching fiends … though that would explain a lot.