It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

As soon as Zombieland wrapped, everyone involved voiced their enthusiasm to do a sequel. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and director Ruben Fleischer had tons of ideas ranging from making it a full-tilt franchise with multiple sequels to turning it into a television series. As early as 2010, these plans were in full effect. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. By 2011, nobody really knew what was happening with Zombieland 2. Jesse Eisenberg wondered publicly if it would still be relevant over two years later and Woody Harrelson started easing back, saying he didn’t “feel like a sequels guy.”

It wasn’t until July 2018 that Sony officially greenlit Zombieland: Double Tap with all of the original cast set to return. This is after a failed attempt to get a TV series launched at Fox in 2012 and then the actual filming of a pilot for Amazon in 2013 (with new actors taking over the roles from the film) that unfortunately didn’t get picked up.

A ten year gap between the first film in a franchise and the second isn’t always the kiss of death. Especially for a zombie franchise. I mean, Night of the Living Dead hit in 1968 and Dawn of the Dead didn’t hit screens until 1978, and then it was another seven years before Day of the Dead was released. It wasn’t unheard of, is all I’m saying.

But with that in mind, Romero’s Dead films had layers. They were films that could be watched over and over again and you could still get something interesting out of them. They were socially relevant and tried to do more than just entertain. Zombieland, however entertaining, was no Night of the Living Dead. There aren’t many comedy franchises that can come back after a ten year absence and still deliver the goods.

Add to that that the zombie movie genre was reaching what one might kindly call a glut. Many viewers had simply gotten tired of zombies, especially after seeing them on their TV screens every week since 2010. World War Z had become the top-grossing zombie film in history back in 2013, and while there was still a lot of good stuff being made on the indie circuit (The Battery, Antisocial, Warm Bodies, Dead Snow: Red vs Dead, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, Zombeavers, Cooties, The Girl with All the Gifts, It Stains the Sands Red, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Overlord, Train to Busan, Cargo, Anna and the Apocalypse), zombies weren’t mainstream in the cinemas anymore unless Resident Evil was part of the title, and even that ride was over as of 2017. The brief window for big budget zombie films seemed to have passed.

But then again, zombies just won’t stay dead.

Zombieland: Double Tap takes place ten years after the original, bringing back the original cast to see what their characters have gotten up to over the past decade. And to be honest, there hasn’t been a whole lot of development. On the surface.

Let me be upfront and clear here. I really dig Zombieland, but it’s a pleasant distraction. As far as pleasant distractions go, it’s a great one. But it’s not a great film. Zombieland: Double Tap is also not a great film, but dammit, it’s a pleasant distraction.

The callbacks to the original film are consistent, but don’t take anything away from the new film. Opening to Metallica, playing with the visual way the rules (or Commandments) are revealed, referencing Bill Murray’s death, all of these elements are included naturally and organically, as our band of heroes take up residence in the White House (allowing for maybe the only real political jab, however slight, in the film). The bulk of the film is built on the fact that the men want to be husbands and fathers, while the women want nothing to do with being wives and daughters.

The best thing about this film is that it doesn’t fall back on the cliché of rehashing the events of the first film. This is a new story in the Zombieland world, and I give it credit for that. Sure, the characterizations are shallow and comedic. Sure, the stakes are superficially high without any real feel of danger. Sure, we get another celebrity cameo, although this time in a more traditionally organic sense, as Luke Wilson shows up as Tallahassee’s doppelganger Albuquerque (and Thomas Middleditch plays Flagstaff, Columbus’ mirror image).

Best of all, though, is that we get the introduction of Rosario Dawson as Nevada. And if you’re a regular reader of Psycho Drive-In, you know that Rosario Dawson makes everything better.

Sure, we get the introduction of Zoey Deutch as Madison and Avan Jogia as Berkeley, but both characters, however shallow and poorly developed serve a function. It would have been very easy to take an easy, and frankly mean, approach to their characters, presenting them as simple targets for ridicule and dismissal, but ultimately there’s even some heart in the roles they play.

I must admit, as we close this out, that while I enjoyed Zombieland back when it was released, I didn’t watch it again until this Easter Zombie Movie Marathon. I liked it, but it was fluff that I didn’t feel any need to revisit. It was fun, but that’s about it. If I had been someone who LOVED that film when it was released and had waited ten years for a sequel, I might have been disappointed with Double Tap.

That’s totally justified.

But as someone who just found it to be extremely entertaining with no real emotional or intellectual core underneath, Double Tap was a totally enjoyable return to that world and these characters. I even liked the ending of this one better, despite it not being as iconic as an amusement park. I liked that it didn’t feel the need to take the piss out of the pacifistic community and let them take part in the saving of their community without raising fists or weapons. That’s fresh and original. Zombie films need that sort of imagination and optimism. Nihilism can only take you so far.

Oh, and keep watching through the credits. It’s totally worth it.

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