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I was 22 years old when the first Zombieland was released and I ate it up like it was made for me. It was in the early stages of that zombie-zeitgeist that made up a good portion of the 2010s, just after the previous run that spanned the late 90s to the mid-2000s. This was around the time I learned that I loved zombie stories. I got deep into Romero’s works, and played my fair share of the Resident Evil series.

So the idea of a comedy about zombies was inherently appealing and I fell in love with Zombieland. It’s been 10 years, though. I have grown… but Zombieland never did.

Catching up with Colombus and the Gang

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) is a horror-comedy following a group of survivors around the undead USA. The film is a sequel to 2009’s Zombieland and reunites the entire cast (yes, even that one, the voice of a certain talking orange tabby). The film is set about a decade after the original film.

Being together for a decade is sure to test the limits of any family, and the story follows a slight fracturing as members of the core four seek to find something different. Eventually, Little Rock finds herself on the road with Berkley, a self-styled hippie, leading to a chase across the US to find Little Rock. The zombies of Zombieland, however, have evolved, bringing in a whole host of new challenges.

Double Tap shows the ongoing adventures of Columbus, Tallahassee, Witchita, and Little Rock, and introduces a much larger world compared to the lean original film. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin reprise their roles. The expanded cast also adds Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, and Thomas Middleditch. And yes, Bill Murray returns. He’s become quite the zombie-fan it seems.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct the sequel, written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick, and Dave Callaham.

What works about Zombieland: Double Tap?

Zombieland: Double Tap is basically a slight tweak on the first film, and that’s fine. It doesn’t aspire to do much beyond expand the scope of the world a bit and throw in a couple of roadblocks here and there. That’s fine. It’s just not all that compelling.

What worked with the original Zombieland has been diminished after about a decade of other zombie films and other comedies. As long as you don’t expect much, it is a fun little movie. There are some legitimately fun moments, such as a great one-take-style fight against two of the new “super zombies” in a tourist-trap motel themed around Elvis Presley. At this moment, and the moment just prior to – a rather meta meeting of archetypes – the movie is at its best.

The decision to expand the scope of the film by including so many other survivors is ultimately a neat idea, but it does not deliver much beyond that meta-gag of Columbus and Tallahassee’s doubles.

What didn’t work?

Double Tap feels like a sequel that came far too late. It feels slower and less bright, unlike those super-zombies, it introduces. It also is quick to raise interesting ideas and throw them aside as well. The ominous herd of these super-zombies seems like a real threat, especially when they establish them as individual threats. However, the ending kind of forgets how powerful and relentless these zombies are and it turns them into, again, a mindless horde.

The characters do not really feel all that interesting after ten years. Woody Harrelson still carries the film as Tallahassee and remains the highlight. The other characters, however, are highly static. Eisenberg’s Columbus comes off as more irritating than quirky ten years later. Emma Stone’s Wichita is curiously subdued and has an emotional arc that sort of doesn’t really work dramatically. Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock is playing the same notes from the first film, only a little surlier and full of teenage angst. Rosario Dawson’s Reno is just a sort of stock, Rosario Dawson role.

Zombieland: Double Tap is also just incredibly sterile-feeling for a film about flesh-eating undead. It has that reliance on CGI mayhem that strips the tangible threat of the zombies away. Zombies work best as practical effects and CGI blood carries absolutely no weight.

It all feels so toothless, which is what is so sad. But looking back on the original, which was something I did about a month ago, I realize that what worked then largely does not work now. I think I left Zombieland behind, there wasn’t that same sort of spark I had at 22 years old.

Final Impressions

Zombieland: Double Tap is a safe and suitable follow up to the original, with an emphasis on safe. It is more of the same which will appeal to some viewers but ultimately left me feeling cold.

The mid-credit scene, however, is a lot of fun.

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Do you feel we were fair in our assessment of Zombieland: Double Tap? Why not check out some more of our reviews at Haunted MTL?

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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