Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg
, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
The first five minutes are sheer genius, as the self-confessed paranoid shut-in "Columbus" (Eisenberg) itemizes the rules he has developed to come to terms with the fact that the world has been taken over by zombies: things like the importance of good cardio, and remembering to fasten your seatbelt. He's given his name because of the city to which he's heading, after he links up with Tallahassee (Harrelson), who refuses to exchange names because he's avoiding any kind of personal connection, so refers to the travelling companion by his intended eventual destination. They meet Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) in a supermarket while hunting for Twinkies, but the two ladies prove anything but, robbing them of their weapons and vehicle, not once but twice. However, they eventually team up, travelling to California, and Columbus begins to fall for Wichita, as they bond over mindless destruction, survival strategy and Bill Murray, in whose home the quarter end up upon reaching Hollywood - though what unfolds there is probably not what you'd expect, in a variety of ways.
It's important to note that this isn't so much a horror movie, as a road one with a horror backdrop, and in this it differs from the most obvious comparison, Shaun of the Dead. That couldn't have functioned without the zombies. For the vast bulk here, from when Tallahassee and Columbus team-up until the blood-spattered finale, where they have to rescue the ladies from a ride in a theme-park, the zombies take a back seat. While this isn't a disaster, since the characters and their interaction is engaging enough, the zombie-splatter, as showcased in the pre-credit monologue and even the opening credits, is so imaginative that anything else is inevitably going to be something of a disappointment. All the characters are appealing and well-portrayed, and the depiction of a civilization that has gone to hell and beyond is effective and chilling. With the genre of horror now largely dominated by sequels and remakes, this proves that there's still plenty of life and scope for development in the old beast yet.