Or, maybe it would depend on how you look at it, because like Roger said, the zombie genre is a very exhausted one. In fact, running strong and revitalized since the boom with '02 Danny Boyle flick, 28 Days Later, I'm sorta waiting until it blows out it's knee and retires itself for a hot minute.
So it's kinda hard to get excited about this stuff, unless you're die hard, or the director is bringing a unique approach to the thing. While not entirely fresh, director Breck Eisner skipped out on plenty (but not all) of the hackneyed and commonplace tricks of this sort of trade, and went for the straight-forward, "let's-not-try-too-hard-and-just-do-this-dirty" approach. And it worked.
The film opens showing the fictional Iowa town, Ogden Marsh in ruins at night. Flames, cars burned to ash, stores and buildings destroyed, the main stretch of road looks pretty bad, and no sign of life anywhere. Then it cuts back three days later and we meet our married heroes. They are the town sheriff (timothy Olymphant) and doctor (Radha Mitchell), and of course, they are both the best looking people in twelve hundred plus populated area. And neither has a lick of farm town accent either, because those are for the less pretty and unintelligible local yokels of the town. I mean, God knows, that the two leads of a movie can't actually dare I say... replicate the others around them in their area? Actually act like they're from the middle of the country and farm folk? NO way! That would turn off audiences to the accessibility of connecting with shiny stars, and we wouldn't want to sour the milk of our two stars and box office would we?
I digressed a little there didn't I? Ma bad son.
Anyway, we meet Sheriff David Dutton stiffing the high school principle on his unpaid parking tickets. He then join's his deputy, Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) and they watch the first day of the high school's baseball team, playing in the spring time. Russ then spots the local drunk stomping onto the field complete with his rifle. David runs out to talk him down the man doesn't bother to even answer his questions and only gives him a eerie stare. David is eventually forced to shoot him in self defense. We then have the doc treating weird cases of residents acting, sorta funny. Just off a little...
Without spoiling anything (not that it really matter's because the twist of zombie films is never how they got to be zombies) the sheriff and his trusty deputy investigate and find the most probable cause of the infection, and the mayor says "hell no" to declaring an actual emergency in the town. But that doesn't matter either, because before anyone can really do anything the military shows up. The most vile and evil military (because our government can't be any other kind) shows up and contains the entire town in five seconds flat. Turning the local high school into a base of ops and laboratory to examine some of the infected residents. They eventually start gobbling everybody up and hold them in a makeshift camp, and then it get's a little more worse for the wear fr everyone around town.
It all boils down to four of them, who try to make there escape out of the town and to a safer haven, Ceder Rapids, thinking they'll be safer there then with the raging military merking everyone down and the "crazies" going, well, crazy. This film could have been a lot worse, and it would seem Breck has recovered, reviewed, and moved on from the 2005 McConaughey disaster, Sahara. This movie didn't try to be anything it really couldn't be, script lacking, Eisner went bare bones: cursing, blood, thrills, sparse chills, and never forcing anything down your throat. He doesn't get too over-the-top with the deaths of people, or how sad some of the things going on could be. Leaving most of the forced emoting (take note Michael Bay) at the door, this movie quickly get's from A to B about what it's intending to do. It does that in the first few frames we see, as the town looks about as bad as the face of a "crazy" resident. And it has very little if any, filler in the script between plot points.
This film wasn't intending to set records or park reverence in it's history, it just wanted to give you a swift account and revisiting of a Romero film. And so it did. Breck, Tim, and Radha made the movie more enjoyable for me. I've had my eye on Olyphant since seeing him in 04's The Girl Next Door. And he's always on point this guy, I never get let down with him. Though this film provided him and Mitchell no juice to sink their teeth into, they keep the film going with upgraded performances considering the B movie status. Showing us something a little more refined then most B movies will allow.
Especially the ones about zombies, rednecks, and a lot of scenes involving people holding up guns dramatically.