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‘Zombieland 2’ and the Evolution of the Undead

The tried-and-true “double tap” might not be enough to hold back the new horde of zombies.
By  · Published on July 20th, 2018

The tried-and-true “double tap” might not be enough to hold back the new horde of zombies.

Fans of the hilarious gore-fest Zombieland were thrilled by the announcement of the much-speculated sequel, which is expected to start production in January. What’s more, Sony has confirmed the original ragtag team of survivors — Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin — will all be returning for Zombieland 2.

With the dream team locked down and a set release date of October 11, 2019, all that’s left to wonder about is the plot. Tallahassee and crew will apparently be on a cross-country journey of horrors, traveling as far as the White House, amid the usual squabbles of their competing personalities. According to Deadline, an unexpected development has been thrown into the mix, one which may make things much harder for our survivors:

“[T]he Zombie slayers must face off against many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors.”

The addition of “evolved” zombies is double-take worthy, that’s for sure. Yet it’s not exactly an original concept in the zombie genre. The only question is, which route exactly will the Zombieland sequel be taking with the idea?

In the past, horror franchises have played around with the idea of advancing the undead, whether through actual evolution or a mutation of the creatures. Or, in a much less serious setting, becoming human again, as in 2013’s Warm Bodies. The idea has the potential to work brilliantly, adding an unpredictable element to the standard zombie-flick formula, but if overused it can become ridiculous.

When discussing ways to “evolve” the undead, we would be remiss to leave out George Romero’s Land of the Dead. The fourth installment of his Living Dead series, the film showcases a pretty unique — if at times outlandish — phenomenon among its zombies: they begin to show signs of intelligence.

This hint near the start of the film blows up full-force as we see zombies figuring out how to use weapons, even firing guns at one point. Their rapid caveman-style progression escalates to the point where the lead zombie (nicknamed “Big Daddy” for some ungodly reason) actually figures out that gasoline is flammable and uses it to explode a corporate fat cat.

While in Land of the Dead it feels as if the zombies are learning too much, and too quickly, the concept of evolution here is fascinating. It definitely makes the movie a favorite to rewatch among the rest of the series. The idea of evolving the undead mentally works very well in increasing the sequel’s entertainment value.

On the other end of the advanced-zombie spectrum comes the hot-or-cold Resident Evil franchise. These zombies are mutating — or, rather the infamous T-virus they are infected with is mutating — in wildly horrifying ways. The film’s zombie outbreak has origins in secret military operations in bio-weapons, making these mutated zombies not all that far-out.

However, as the Resident Evil movies progressed, the mutations only got weirder and weirder. It gets to the point where the creatures don’t even resemble zombies anymore, as with the bio-weapon Axeman and the flying Kipepeo monsters (both originating with the video game series). This may be where the Resident Evil films fail in terms of advancing their zombies; the material and its concepts just work much better in the original format.

It’s unclear from the initial synopsis where on this spectrum Zombieland 2 may fall. Will our favorite cynical pseudo-family be up against tool-wielding zombies like Romero’s, or some other form of intelligent undead? Or will the gang have to re-think Columbus’ time-tested “double tap” method when faced with mutating zombies exhibiting mushrooming growth and bizarre characteristics?

Hopefully, the “evolved” living dead in Zombieland 2 will find a happy middle ground instead, providing a diverting change of pace from the standard brain-thirsty horde. This new challenge will also keep things fresh to prevent the film from feeling too much like the original.

However it all plays out, this is a film that comedy-horror fans have been waiting a decade for. It’s safe to say we can trust the minds behind Zombieland to deliver.

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Kendall is a recent graduate and San Diego native who is passionate about the environment, writing, and above all else Keanu Reeves.