This is the way the world ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies slaughtering all of humanity. Apologies to T.S. Eliot, but in contemplating catastrophe Eliot didn't have the benefit of seeing Zombieland. He knew nothing of the virus that turned nearly all of humanity into flesh-eating, gore-gobbling, bile-spewing monsters.
Zombieland, which turns out to be better than its title might lead you to expect, mixes road-movie cliches and flesh-eating horror, and comes up with something that's funny in the bargain. Like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland downplays fright-night horror, opting instead to make us laugh, even as it grosses us out. Warning: If the sight of blood-drooling zombies puts you off your popcorn, Zombieland may not be your cup of innards.
If, on the other hand, you're game for some gory genre fun, Zombieland may hit the spot. That's partly because of the pleasant misanthropy of its nerdy main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg's low-key style keeps the movie from becoming overbearing, although it certainly isn't shy about going over-the-top.
The rest of the cast is equally good. In one of his most amusing turns in a while, Woody Harrelson shows up as Tallahassee, a zombie-hating cowboy who loves Twinkies. Harrelson's joined by Emma Stone as Wichita, a con artist who uses her skills to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Her younger sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) does her share of conning, too.
First-time director Ruben Fleischer does a decent job serving up comedy and action. I forgave the self-conscious use of rules that Eisenberg's character spouts and which are printed on the screen. An example: "Rule Four: Seatbelts." Rule Four warns survivors to buckle up so that they aren't hurled through windshields while running over zombies.
Zombieland isn't a movie you want to oversell, but if you're looking for something that's got some comic kick and doesn't feel the need to impress you with its hipness -- as was the case with the recent Jennifer's Body -- Zambieland should do the trick.
Know this, too: There's an explosively funny cameo in Zombieland. Nope, I'm not going to tell, and I'd advise you to avoid anyone who insists on trying to clue you in.