At last—a zombie movie vegans can endorse. This new plague was caused by mad cow disease, we're told by our virginal collegiate hero (Jesse Eisenberg). Phobic and shy before the outbreak, he's become a survivor precisely because of his OCD tendencies. Things change when he thumbs a ride with a wild-eyed redneck (the very hammy, very amusing Woody Harrelson), the zombie-killin' Oscar to his Felix. Add two orphaned sisters—love interest Emma Stone, precocious child Abigail Breslin—and you've got a comic road trip through the apocalypse, Vacation meets The Road. Consistently funny and brisk between its gags and gore scenes, Zombieland owes its being to two writers from Spike TV's old Joe Schmo Show, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Director Ruben Fleischer's touch is light and sure, and he often embeds Eisenberg's fussy zombie-avoidance rules as graphics onscreen. (No. 31: Always check the back seat.) The effect isn't outright spoof, since the comedy respects undead conventions. Zombies must be regularly dispatched by baseball bat, bug spray, banjo, and other unlikely weapons; these ghouls are traditionally slow and speechless, yet most people are too dumb to avoid them. (Among the cowering populace, look for Mike White and an unbilled comedy A-lister, the latter in a welcome, extended cameo). Crucially, the four Zombieland survivors aren't too smart or self-aware. When they contemplate the silver lining to the zombie cloud, Eisenberg admits he's glad to be freed from the daily burden of reading other people's Facebook updates.
Harrelson (left) shows Eisenberg how music can kill the undead.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Oct. 2. Rated R. 85 minutes.