Zombies aren't so bad, after all - Joel Hall

During the opening week of Sony Pictures' new film, "Zombieland," I went into the theater with very high expectations, and it wasn't because I read a bunch of reviews, or have a particular affinity for comedy-horror-action-road-zombie movies. I expected a lot out of "Zombieland," because of how much I was personally inconvenienced by this movie.

With the exception of a few scenes filmed in Beverly Hills, and on Hollywood Boulevard, "Zombieland" was filmed almost exclusively in Georgia. For the two days in March the film was shot in Morrow, my life was a living nightmare.

The location of my house makes it impossible for me to get home without driving along Ga. Highway 54 past the old Clayton County Water Authority tower in Morrow. While the movie was being filmed, that entire area was completely quarantined.

Unfortunately, prior to the filming, my cupboard was completely bare, because I had put off grocery shopping for about three weeks. Unless I was going to eat lumpy oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a trip to the grocery store was necessary.

Snaking through a maze of detours and police blockades, a trip to the store that usually takes 30 minutes, took me more than two hours. Because my street was in view of the camera, I was forced to do a full circle around the city, and approach my home through a back entrance. By the time I reached my house, the milk and other dairy products I had purchased were pretty much done.

Despite my desperate, late-night sojourn to the grocery store, after an 11-hour workday, I was still forced to eat oatmeal for breakfast that morning.

When I went to the theater this weekend to see "Zombieland," I was thinking, "'this movie better be good." However, from the first frame of the film, I was pleasantly surprised.

One of my good friends from Emory University, who happened to be a director's assistant on the film, made it into the opening credits as one of several helpless humans running in slow motion from the growing zombie horde. The movie's opening scene, where actor Jesse Eisenberg lays out "his rules" for avoiding death by zombie, takes place in the parking lot of what was once Pilgreen's Steakhouse (now Papa Buffet).

While most people in the theater were entertained by Eisenberg's neurotic character "Columbus," and his narrow escape from hungry zombies, I was more entertained by the fact that the chase goes by the water authority tower, as well as past a nearby waffle restaurant with a familiar, unlighted "O" in the sign. The rest of the movie was pretty entertaining as well.

While I can't say I'm a huge fan of gory, splatter films, there was something more human and enjoyable about "Zombieland." Unlike movies, such as "The Evil Dead" and "Planet Terror," where the characters fighting the zombies are as inexplicably violent as the zombies themselves, the characters in "Zombieland" feel more like average people pushed to the limit, due to unfortunate circumstances.

While the characters fight for their survival, they take the time to laugh, search for Twinkies, and hold on to the things that make them human.

Not that I would ever wish for a zombie apocalypse, but after watching the movie, I'm glad "Zombieland" became a reality. The Georgia film industry, as well as the zombie film genre, will both benefit from this interesting take on the un-dead.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.