Zombieland was a fantastic movie with a good heart. It had characters we cared about, great performances and a really funny script. So when it was announced that they were going to create a TV spin-off (sans original cast, naturally) I was quietly optimistic.
Having seen the pilot episode I feel compelled to kill it (or myself) with fire. Lots and lots of fire.
A spin-off written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who penned the movie) should have been ideal. But it isn’t. Somehow they have managed to strip away all the charm and humour of the source material and create a show which is neither funny or suspenseful. It’s almost as if they’ve never met the characters before. Looking at this, it seems more and more that the movie was a fluke, particularly given their last project was G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
What has replaced the jokes is swearing, a lot of swearing. And a counter to see how many times can say the word “vagina” because it kind of sounds like the name of another person they meet. That is the level we are at with this.
There is also a pronounced indifference to human life, with a bunch of people predictably dying and not so much as a flinch from the main characters. Now, that in itself is not a bad thing, but they don’t even concerned with their own well-being. A zombie comes out of nowhere, kills someone right next to them and they don’t even bother to look around to see if there are any more zombies.
That the episode is directed by Eli Craig (who co-wrote and directed the fantastic horror comedy Tucker and Dale Vs Evil) makes this an even more bitter pill to swallow. There is a complete lack of suspense in any of the scenes.
Obviously, with such a great cast in the movie there was obviously going to be something lost (or at least different) in the transition to the small screen. That is only natural and to be fair to the cast, they do a pretty decent job given the rubbish they have to work with. Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock are all recognisable as the same characters and with a little time you would get used to it. But then there is Tallahassee.
Oh, poor Tallahassee.
For some completely inexplicable reason they have transformed him from the no-nonsense hick with a secret heart of gold into a complete buffoon. Now, there is no shame in not trying to be Woody Harrelson who absolutely owned that role, but he is like a completely different character. And to be fair, it is not the fault of the actor, who again, gives a decent enough performance given the absolute garbage he has to work with.
They have also added a new plot device, err I mean character in the form of Detroit, the voice of a former OnStar employee. For those who might not be aware, this seems to be some kind of GPS-type service but with a real person giving instructions through a speaker in the car. How this still works in a post-apocalyptic wasteland is not addressed. She informs them where to find survivors and the such and the location of a supposed safe-haven on the other side of the country.
If I were being picky, I would complain that the special effects aren’t particularly good, but given what they are trying to do on a (presumably) low budget, it gets a pass.
What doesn’t get a pass though is the first five minutes which is one of the most insufferable scenes I have ever had the displeasure of watching. Two thoroughly unlikable people moan about problems like getting the wrong type of coffee whilst being completely oblivious to the zombie hoards running amuck outside their floor-to-ceiling windows. It has been done a thousand times before, though never with such a lack of humour and such an overwhelming sense of indifference.
Avoid this like a marauding hoard of the undead.