Zombieland, perhaps the greatest genre-pushing movie in its particular horror category, will be leaving Netflix on October 1st. That seems like an odd decision at the top of a season in which people are more likely to be interested in zombie movies, but now is the time to catch the film while you can. And you should especially do so if you haven’t seen it yet.
Zombieland is one of the best zombie comedies of all time, but it’s leaving Netflix on October 1st.
Released in 2009, Zombieland is the directorial debut of Ruben Fleischer with a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick that takes a darkly comedic approach to undead horror. Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin, it turns zombie movies upside down with its irreverent humor and postmodern style. The film follows four quirky characters who set out across the country on a road trip to find an area that has not yet been overtaken by the undead.
Zombieland is based on an idea Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were thinking about for years before the film was made. They first wrote a television pilot spec script in 2005, planning to do the story as a TV series. It was director Ruben Fleischer who first came up with the concept of making it instead into a movie, providing the idea of an amusement park as the ultimate destination for the film’s road trip story.
For some zombie credibility, Zombieland‘s makeup effects were handled by none other than Tony Gardner, who worked with Rick Baker to design the ghoulish prosthetics for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. The cinematography was handled by Michael Bonvillain, who had previous experience with the kind of handheld work needed for the film, having lensed Cloverfield for J.J. Abrams. The setting for the amusement park was primarily the real Wild Adventures Water and Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia.
Zombieland: The Series streamed on Amazon and recast every character….it wasn’t a hit.
Zombieland began shooting in February of 2009 and ultimately had a lean shooting schedule of just 41 days, during which Abigail Breslin celebrated her 13th birthday by adopting a puppy. Its budget was similarly slender, coming in at $23.6 million. On that relatively small budget, it ended up making an impressive box office take of over $102 million, making it quite a success.
The success of Zombieland is due not just to its simple but clever story and unique, quirky take on a sometimes overdone genre but also the strength of its stars. Woody Harrelson led the cast and was a huge draw, as he usually is, garnering praise for his characteristically offbeat performance. Similarly, Eisenberg, Stone, and Breslin all rose to the film’s particular challenges, balancing both the end-of-the-world stakes and the wackiness of the film’s comedic perspective.
Produced by Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, and Pariah, Zombieland was distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing and made its debut at the Fantastic Fest on September 25, 2009. Its wide opening was on October 2, 2009, a full week prior to the originally announced release date. The strategy proved to be a success as the film opened at number one with opening weekend box office earnings of $24,733,155.
Zombieland used a real amusement park, Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia, with local college students filling in as zombies.
Upon its release, Zombieland received widespread praise for its balance of gore and comedy, bringing a light, fresh approach to the zombie category without falling too far into either humor or horror. Roger Ebert himself lauded the filmmakers for their “intention and well tuned comic timing,” saying that the film’s focus on zombies avoided the trap of being “dreary,” into which other films might have fallen. Ty Burr of the Boston Globe drew attention to the film’s witty banter and pop culture references, saying it had more in common with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World than with 28 Days Later.
David Callaham joined the writing duo responsible for Zombieland in the writing of the sequel, Zombieland Double Tap, which was released 10 years after the original in 2019. That film also met with similar box office numbers to its predecessor, though on a larger budget. Although there are no official plans for a third film, the production team and the cast seem interested in the possibility. Though Emma Stone only jokingly said they should make a new Zombieland movie every 10 years, further adventures with these characters and in this world are not out of the question.
If you’re interested in quirky comedies that play fast and loose with genre boundaries, or if you love zombie films and would like a break from the usual tone of the genre, you can stream Zombieland now on Netflix. But do it soon. It leaves the streaming platform on October 1st.