Somehow, it’s taken ten years for another Zombieland to shuffle into theaters, and fans have been hungrily awaiting the continued adventures of Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) in the meantime. The last time we saw these four in 2009, they had just wrapped up an epic final showdown against hundreds of zombies in a California amusement park. For Little Rock, who loved riding roller coasters; Columbus, who was terrified of clowns; and Tallahassee, who just wanted to score a twinkie, we couldn’t have imagined a better place to end up.
In the spirit of facing off against one’s demons (personal and undead), here’s a roundup of the best spots from other zombie comedy flicks to make a last stand. Some are obligatory, like cemeteries or the morgue, while others are slightly stranger, like the zoo or children’s play centers.
Which of these seem objectively secure at first glance, but turn out to be disaster areas? Which end up as locations where characters are killed because they don’t know how to utilize surprisingly accessible escape routes? Let’s find out.
9. Cemetery, The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
For filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, known for his signature deadpan tone and stories about drifters and loners, what better project is there than one in which Bill Murray and Adam Driver play misanthropes caught in a small town zombie outbreak? It’s ashes to ashes, dust to dust (the zombies literally disintegrate into dusty smoke when sliced or shot) in The Dead Don’t Die, where musicians like Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, and Selena Gomez have supporting roles and modern social commentary is attempted—the world has possibly been tipped off its axis by “polar fracking,” while Steve Buscemi plays a guy who wears a “Make America White Again” hat—though that message doesn’t dig deeper than a few surface-level swings.
We’re in a movie, after all, and reminded of this fact when Driver’s character tells us he knows what’ll happen next because “Jim” gave him “the script,” and that a track on the radio (“The Dead Don’t Die” by Sturgill Simpson) happens to be the theme song. Die ends with a showdown in the cemetery that doesn’t go so great, but we already figured that. “This is going to end badly,” Driver’s character says repeatedly, and it does.
8. Cabin, Dead Snow (2009)
In Norse mythology, a draug is an undead monster who greedily protects its (usually stolen) treasure. In Dead Snow, these creatures take the form of zombie Nazis who terrorize a cabin of teenagers on Easter vacation near Øksfjord. During World War II, this squad of Nazis abused and looted from the town until the locals stood up to them, killing many and chasing the rest into the mountains where it was assumed they froze to death.
Surprise! The Nazis are back, and it’s up to the teenagers to return the treasure (à la Pirates of the Caribbean) before they all get killed themselves. Most of the movie has the teens hiking through frigid mountains, but they eventually work together to secure a small cabin that gives them a little protection. It’s not great—but against the undead forces of the Third Reich, where else is there to go?
7. High school auditorium, Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
In what might be the world’s only British Christmas–themed zombie musical, Ella Hunt plays Anna Shepherd, a high school senior who wants to take a year off to travel the world before starting college, to her father’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Anna’s friends are wrestling with issues of their own—one’s struggling with a big homework assignment, another is squaring off against the school’s authoritarian vice principal (Paul Kaye), and Anna’s best friend secretly happens to be in love with her. All this, and then a zombie infection breaks out in their small Scotland town.
Aside from surprisingly good musical numbers and zombie-killing sequences, Anna and the Apocalypse is a coming-of-age flick at heart; their upcoming high school graduation doesn’t just feel like the end of the world, it basically is. Anna squares off against the vice principal and makes peace with her dad in the school’s auditorium at the end of the movie, which sadly offers no real cover from the zombies—but the school’s makeshift Christmastime decor does provide Anna with the tools she needs (namely a giant, sharpened plastic candy cane) to face both undead enemies and her fear of finally leaving home.
6. Morgue, Re-Animator (1985)
“Herbert West has a very good head on his shoulders…and another one on his desk,” says the tagline of the film adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s 1922 novelette. Although unbeknownst to most of the staff and students at the fictional Miskatonic University in New England, Herbert also has very good heads in the building’s basement—and later in the morgue, as he attempts to test his “reanimating” reagent on the recently severed bodies of cats, corpses, and rival researchers.
Herbert West might be giving the dead “life” in this ’80s horror comedy classic, but it’s actor Jeffrey Combs who gave life to the wild-eyed West, always eager to pump some dead body full of green chemicals from a big syringe. By the time he and fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) travel to the morgue to defeat multiple lobotomized corpses that have come to life, we’re rooting for them to win. Luckily, the morgue—with its multiple rooms and opportunities to distract the zombies—ends up working as a reasonable place for a showdown.
5. Children’s play zone, Cooties (2014)
The kids are not alright in Fort Chicken, Illinois, after eating contaminated chicken nuggets that turn them into aggressive, cannibalistic monsters. It’s a good thing the teachers (played by Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, and Alison Pill) are more than happy to wipe out their former students using hockey sticks, tasers, and anything else at their disposal. Written by Leigh Whannell and Ian Brennan, the creators of Saw and Glee respectively (seems fitting), Cooties is a horror comedy that’s neither scary nor funny enough to really get off the ground.
At the end of the film, the adults find themselves trapped at an amusement center, filmed in the real life Jump ’n Jammin of Arcadia, California, where the children are momentarily held back by the ropes of jungle gyms and climbing sets. It’s enough time for the adults to spray them with gasoline shot from a water gun, plug up the exit with a giant beach ball, and drive the hell out of there to “someplace where kids don’t wanna go.”
4. Gift shop, Little Monsters (2019)
Miss Caroline is just trying to take her kindergarten class on a field trip to the local farm when zombies break out of a nearby U.S. Army testing facility and force everyone into the farm’s gift shop. In Little Monsters, Miss Caroline (an amazing Lupita Nyong’o) not only has to keep the kids alive, she has to keep them from freaking out at the unfolding carnage. “Who remembers how to play tag?” she asks her students after they notice the zombies surrounding them in the fields. “Well, those funny looking people out there are ‘it.’”
The gift shop, with giant windows and sparse interiors, isn’t the greatest place to hide during a zombie attack. But compared to the open farmland or riding in a slow-moving tractor flatbed, it’s ideal in a film that’s basically The Walking Dead meets Kindergarten Cop. And with Miss Caroline as willing to protect her kids by singing a soothing ukulele rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know it” as she is to spear zombies with pitchforks, everyone’s in good hands.
3. Victorian mansion, Braindead / Dead Alive (1992)
Long before Taika Waititi was impressing audiences with his take on subversive vampires in What We Do in the Shadows, another celebrated New Zealand director named Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson) was cutting his teeth with a splatter comedy of his own. Braindead, or Dead Alive as it was known in North America, follows lovebirds Lionel (Timothy Balme) and Paquita (Diana Peñalver), who attempt to escape a life under the thumb of Lionel’s domineering mother, Vera (Elizabeth Moody)—a matter complicated by Vera contracting a zombie plague at the Wellington Zoo.
Braindead goes all-out, with characters peeing on graves, nurses and priests hooking up to spawn zombie babies, and the heroes resorting to using lawnmowers to puree the undead. Despite all the carnage, the old Victorian mansion where Lionel lives ends up being the perfect place—first, to contain and prevent a handful of newly-afflicted zombies from infecting the rest of the town; then, as a four-story arena for a stomach-churning showdown. If you thought the Battle of Helm’s Deep from Two Towers was insane, just wait until you get a load of this.
2. Pacific Playland, Zombieland (2009)
The good thing about an amusement park in a zombie fight is that there’s room to run around, plenty of secure booths from which to make a final desperate bid for your life, and roller coasters that you can climb for leverage. The bad thing about an amusement park is that all the flashing lights and blasting noises will attract hundreds of zombies from miles around.
The survivors of Zombieland discover this the hard way, when what begins as a retreat for sisters Wichita and Little Rock (they want to enjoy the rides) turns deadly as they are suddenly swarmed. Thanks to some effective running and gunning by an eager Tallahassee (possibly Woody Harrelson’s finest role) and an awkward but well-meaning Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the gang pulls through. By the end of the film, they’re more than survivors of the zombie apocalypse. They’re family.
1. The Winchester Tavern, Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Take the car, get mom, kill her new husband, grab the ex-girlfriend, head to the bar, have a beer, and wait for the whole “zombie thing” to blow over.
At least, that’s the plan in the first film of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy, Shaun of the Dead. But everything goes to hell when in-fighting between the group (largely as a result of Shaun’s failure to grow up) draws seemingly every zombie in London to the Winchester Tavern (people are yelling and accidentally putting “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen on the jukebox at full volume). Things don’t work out so good for Shaun’s group—but as far as locations go, the Winchester is suburb. The bar is stocked with a loaded rifle, thick front doors, plus a back entrance and underground basement to retreat to if needed. Plus, much to the characters’ delight, there is plenty of alcohol.
Shaun of the Dead changed the zombie comedy game when it came out in 2004, vaulting the entire genre from indie B-movie sidelines into the mainstream. Released to critical acclaim, including praise from the likes of horror/gore veterans Stephen King, George Romero, and Quentin Tarantino, this zombie comedy helped pave the way for future zom-coms with brains, souls, and critically, senses of humor. Similar to the characters themselves, it helped the genre get a little more mature without losing the sense of fun. Things look grim in Shaun of the Dead, but as Nick Frost says, “At least it’s not the end of the world.” FL