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Who Will Win This Year’s Zombie-Comedy Hunger Games? Let’s Investigate.

The prize is glory (and also living). Photo: Jessica Miglio/CTMG

For the past several years, it seems as though we’ve been blessed with a consistent stream of pretty good and pretty somber zombie movies. But this fall, following an early automaton release (Jordan Peele’s Us, in March), we’re getting an absolute deluge of zombie comedy movies in the form of a raucous undead triple feature. Zombieland: Double Tap is about to hit theaters, and it follows the arrival of the zom-comedies Little Monsters and One Cut of the Dead. Double Tap, of course, takes us back into “Z-Land” a decade after we first met our motley crew of heroes including Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Meanwhile, Little Monsters and One Cut of the Dead provide international takes on the genre: The former is an Australian horror romp, starring Josh Gad and Lupita Nyong’o, which takes us into a small-scale zombie outbreak at a children’s amusement park; the latter is a low-budget meta-take on the undead genre out of Japan.

This zom-com onslaught got us wondering. Who, among all these zombie slayers, would reign supreme in a Hunger Games–style battle among its lead characters? Imagine it: a big battle dome filled with zombies, where our protagonists and their sidekicks must not only fight off the walking dead but best one another. The prize is glory (and also living). Vulture has critically evaluated each of the stars in these three new movies to determine the survivor supreme. Let them fight!

Berkeley: Ava Jogia plays Berkeley in Zombieland: Double Tap, and since he’s a committed pacifist, he is absolutely dying first in the zombie Hunger Games. He is very handsome and has great hair, but this ride is going to be very short for Berkeley.

Ko: A heartthrob who fancies himself a very serious actor, Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) is trying to bring some gravitas to his role in One Cut of the Dead’s movie within a movie. But he can barely handle his director’s biting feedback, let alone a pack of literal flesh-munching corpses. He might be able to panic his way to survival for a spell, but Ko is ultimately a threat to no one.

Chinatsu: Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) is the well-meaning lead actress in One Cut of the Dead’s zombie movie that gets overrun by actual zombies. She has a hard time summoning the fortitude to convincingly cry in front of a camera, but over the course of the chaos, she experiences a, well, emotional breakthrough. But her tactic of running and screaming in the face of danger will go only so far before a more capable killer cuts Chinatsu down. Sorry, girl. You don’t have what it takes.

There’s no way Columbus is getting out of this alive. Photo: Columbia Pictures

Columbus: In the Zombieland movies, we’re meant to believe Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus would survive a decade in the undead wasteland, when every piece of good sense tells us that, on his own, he wouldn’t last long enough to write his 70-something rule book come the apocalypse. Columbus makes it to Zombieland: Double Tap because he has his little zombie-fighting family to protect him. In a brawl-for-all, Columbus’s limitless neuroses would amount to a quick death.

Dave: He rises to the challenge in Little Monsters, but it’s mostly because he’s angling to impress his little nephew’s teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). In the event of a zombie Hunger Games, however, alliances would only be temporary and opportunistic. On his own in a battle dome, Dave is likely just some guy surrounded by flesh-eating zombies that he’s not equipped to handle. He’s got some fight in him, so he’s not going down first, but don’t expect Dave to make it far past the first batch of deaths.

Little Rock: Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock is a weaker link in the Zombieland crew, but she’s also a hard-ass. This girl wants to survive. While she would be outmatched in most hand-to-hand combat scenarios, she could rely on her cunning — setting traps and not having any qualms about shooting someone in the back — to take out a few challengers. Little Rock wouldn’t fight fair, but she’d put up a good fight in her own way.

Madison: This one defies reason, but Zoey Deutch’s Madison, whom we meet in Double Tap, would definitely be able to accident her way into surviving half of the zombie Hunger Games. She spent years hiding in a fridge in the Zombieland world and didn’t crack, so we have strong reason to believe she’d end up in the only isolated part of this battle zone and not be seen again until a more skilled hunter came looking for her.

Teddy McGiggle, correctly stepping back to let Miss Caroline shine. Photo: Courtesy of Neon/Hulu

Director Higurashi: The incredible resolve One Cut’s Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) demonstrates in getting his bad zombie movie made despite all the hurdles he has to jump over suggests this guy has the determination to make an outsize impact in the Hunger Games. If he snaps into megalomaniac mode, as he does in One Cut, Higurashi has the stuff to turn cold-blooded killer. He is polite and accommodating by nature, but never underestimate the quiet rage of a repressed man!

Wichita: Besides Tallahassee, Emma Stone’s Wichita is the only one of the Zombieland found family who could really make a survival run on her own. Maybe that’s just Stone’s smoky voice and leather jacket tricking us into thinking she’s a top-shelf soldier of the apocalypse, but if that’s the case, it’s a damn convincing trick! Wichita’s cool head will prevail as the pressure ratchets up, and while her killer instinct isn’t quite intense enough to propel her to victory here, she would make a damn good run at it.

Mao: One Cut of the Dead’s Mao (Mao) is a sneaky contender, but watch out for her. An aspiring filmmaker, Mao is a demanding perfectionist even if she’s just working on her dad’s shitty low-budget zombie movie. She’s confident, seizes control in chaos, and really seems as if she’s just waiting for the right challenge to push her to greatness.

Teddy McGiggle: Here’s the thing about Josh Gad’s Teddy McGiggle in Little Monsters: He is a depraved, terrible man willing to throw children to zombies to save his own skin. He’s a drunk. He’s a nihilist, and he makes his money manipulating kids into thinking he’s a kindly entertainer, when he’s actually just trying to have sex with their sad single moms. Teddy won’t make it to the end of the war, but he will go to savage lengths to save himself.

Tallahassee: Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee was practically built for the zombie wars. He loves wasting them almost as much as he loves Twinkies, and he’s well-trained in facing down hordes of the undead. His only flaw may be his swagger. You sense sometimes that Tallahassee is ready to leave it on the battlefield to go down in a blaze of glory as long as it means getting Zombie Kill of the Year.

Miss Caroline: Lupita Nyong’o’s character in Little Monsters has a surprising twist in her backstory, but the craziest part is that we don’t learn she was a Special Forces soldier in the days before she became a kindergarten teacher. (We also can’t say that’s not true.) Miss Caroline doesn’t want to kill, but she will if her hand is forced, and watching her threaten to bleed Teddy McGiggle like livestock if he endangers her schoolchildren is maybe one of the best things Nyong’o has done in her Oscar-winning career.

Nevada: We don’t get to see too much of Rosario Dawson as Nevada in Double Tap, but she leaves us wanting so much more. Nevada loves Elvis, carries a six-shooter, and is not here for any of your guff. She lives in an intricate homage to the King that she built herself, and honestly you have to respect someone who demands to live her best life during the end of the world.

Nao, cutting her way to the top of the zombie-comedy Hunger Games. Photo: ENBU Seminar

Nao: Tallahassee might be a road warrior of the zombie-pocalypse and Teddy McGiggle might be amoral and shameless, but One Cut of the Dead’s Nao (Harumi Syuhama) wins this zom-com game of survival. Nao had to give up acting because she got too into her roles, abandoning inhibition and any sense of self, and in One Cut that meant transforming into an undead-slaying freight train. No one can talk her down. No one can stop her, not even Miss Caroline. When Nao is switched on, your best chance of survival is to run and hide.

Who Will Win This Year’s Zombie-Comedy Hunger Games?