Shaun of the Dead


Dir. Edgar Wright
2004
After many a year of bad, bad, bad zombie films
(running zombies=wrong! Resident Evil=where’s the gore?), “Shaun of the Dead” gets it so right, and understands its genre so well, that I immediately want to put it up in my list of Top 10 zombie films (including the first two Romero films and Jackson’s “Dead Alive”).
The key is that the filmmakers aren’t making fun of the genre–they’re placing characters from another genre (slacker comedy) into a zombie film. Big difference. I don’t usually like comedy in my horror, but here it works, because the makers are sniggering “Aren’t horror films stupid?”
Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his useless friend Ed (Nick Frost) spend most of their days lounging about the house they rent, playing XBox, going down the pub, assaulting each other with farts. Shaun has a dead end job in an appliance store, at least, and has a girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), but his idea of a good time is…taking her down the pub. With Ed.
No time is wasted setting up the zombies–taking his idea straight from Romero, the zombies are activated by a satellite re-entering the atmosphere–and much of the pleasure of the opening third is seeing how long it takes this workaday drone to cotton on to the fact that the dead now walk the earth. (“Sorry mate, I don’t have any change”) he says to one young flesheater as he walks home from the shops. Anyway, Shaun is too wrapped up in his heartache from being dumped to notice.
The rules have been studied well. There’s a rescue attempt (girlfriend, her friends, his parents), a journey across familiar-now-hostile territory, then refuge in a safe haven (the pub) that slowly turns into a trap. Members of the team get bitten, and slowly turn into zombies. There’s a finale of humans vs. overwhelming numbers of zombies.
The television acts as a reality check and a framing device for the horror elements, like in the original Night. There’s a nice scene where they channel surf and we get to see all the cable channel logos, all with the same “standing by” message. In the end, television culture turns out to be as resilient as the humans.
There’s no holding back on the gore in the latter half of the film, and we get a nice homage to Day of the Dead’s stomach-buffet scene. Thank goodness for that–I had nearly given up all hope.
Apparently, Romero loved the film enough that its said the lead and his writing/directing partner will appear in the upcoming fourth installment of the director’s series, called Land of the Dead.
For sheer pleasure and laughs, you gotta go see this.
(If you have a multi-region DVD player, you can already buy this from Amazon UK. I doubt if the American release will retain its many extras.)

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