In 2009, zombies were having quite the moment.
The vampire and werewolf frenzy initiated by 2008’s Twilight had started to fizzle out, and audiences were in need of a new mystical creature. Enter “Zombieland” and a new obsession with the undead, flesh-eating monster.
What followed were all kinds of zombies – from killer swarms in “World War Z,” to romances like “Warm Bodies,” and just about everything in between. The most popular zombie development, though, was the television phenomenon “The Walking Dead,” which is still running today, albeit not nearly as popular as it once was.
Now, a full 10 years after its predecessor debuted, “Zombieland: Double Tap” is here to prove that just like its main antagonists, the zombie film will never truly die.
While some long-awaited sequels may try and pick things up right where they left off, “Double Tap” knows better. Instead, the sequel immediately addresses the elephant in the room by recapping what the film’s central characters have been up to for the last decade. Despite the drastic time gap, this bluntness makes it feel like we haven’t missed a beat.
The film opens with an extremely violent and gory massacre that serves to reintroduce everyone’s favorite zombie slayers. There’s the nerdy, rule-making Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the rough-and-tumble cowboy, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the hardened but caring Wichita (Emma Stone), and an extremely grown up Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Once the bullets start flying and blood starts spurting, it really doesn’t stop.
Since we last saw the crew, they’ve been living large in the White House. That’s right, riding scooters through the halls, killing zombies on the South Lawn, and pillaging the historic digs for all of its hidden treasures. But after years of being coddled by Tallahassee and watching Columbus and Wichita continue to fall in love, Little Rock decides it’s time for her to find people her own age where she feels she can truly belong.
She jacks the key’s to Tallahassee’s beloved Beast and takes off with Wichita in tow. But once the women meet Berkley (Avan Jogia), Little Rock quickly falls for him, abandoning her sister to follow her new flame to a fabled safe haven known as Babylon. Wichita reunites with the rest of the gang, and together they have to track down Little Rock before a herd of newly mutated zombies gets to her first.
The thing that makes “Double Tap” so enjoyable is its ability to channel the same authenticity of its predecessor. Columbus still narrates the tale while his never ending rules flash onto the screen, it’s still filled with the same hilarious asides and explanations, and most importantly, “Double Tap” elevates all of these successful elements to the next level. Gone is the Zombie Kill of the Week, because now the top prize is the Zombie Kill of the Year. For what it’s worth, the reigning champ knocked over the Leaning Tower of Pisa to take out some zombies. That upgrade within the story ends up serving as a symbol for the increase in scale of the entire film.
Just because the film feels incredibly familiar doesn’t mean director Ruben Fleischer hasn’t added plenty of new pieces, too, most of which come in the shape of new Zombieland survivors. In particular, there’s Madison (Zoey Deutch), a ditzy and helpless tagalong that seduces Columbus, as well as Nevada (Rosario Dawson), a lone survivor domineering enough to tame even Tallahassee. While Nevada serves as someone finally capable of matching Tallahassee, Madison acts as the antithesis to Wichita, setting up for some hysterical moments between the two as they vie for Columbus’ love.
As teased in the trailer, Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch also make brief appearances as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, two carbon copies of Tallahassee and Columbus. Middleditch’s Flagstaff even keeps track of his Zombieland survival commandments as a counter to Columbus’ rules. The encounter with the identical twins also leads to one of the film’s most exciting moments – a truly impressive and action-packed one-shot fight scene that lasts a few minutes and takes the camera throughout an entire hotel.
The plot in “Double Tap” may not be anything revolutionary – a character feels she doesn’t belong in her “family” and goes looking for a new one, only to later find out she was where she belonged all along – but it’s serviceable for a vessel mainly concerned with smashing zombie brains and providing hilarious banter. The film also benefits from its self-awareness, choosing to directly address some of its issues, like the time gap and at one point Harrelson’s character even asks why they don’t just camp out on an island for safety. That ability to never take itself too seriously is a large part of what makes these movies so fun.
After 10 years of waiting, the highly anticipated Zombieland sequel finally arrived, and it’s certainly worth the wait. “Double Tap” is a smart, entertaining adventure that perfectly realigns itself with the world fans have dreamed of returning to for years.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.