Published on September 28th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Shaun of the Dead
Those crazy Brits have got to be doing something right across the pond. After the success of 28 Days Later in their homeland the film stormed American cinemas and made my top 10 list last year, now another zombie film tried to make it big in the US, but can a romantic comedy with zombies really work? You bet your ass it can.
What Shaun of the Dead (taking its title as an homage to George Romero’s perennial Dawn of the Dead) does really well is be an entertaining film that successfully merges many genres of filmmaking into one, creating a hodgepodge of side-bursting comedy and horror and mixes it all together, with a few scoops of brains, and melds one of the best films of the year. Realistically, I haven’t had a better time at the movies in a very long time. Aside from the “groundbreaking” dramas and the “funniest movies of the year” comedies you rarely get to go to a film that is so enjoyable, you actually don’t want it to end, because you know the real world, with its “real” movies will be waiting just around the corner.
Shaun of the Dead centers around the title character, Shaun (Simon Pegg), and his everyday activities, which are leading him down the road of an eternal loser, and how his seemingly normal life is impacted by the zombie threat. One of the most clever portions of the film’s script is we never get a real cause for the arrival of the zombies. While characters are flipping through channels we get bits and pieces of how the virus might have first come in contact with humans, but a solid explanation is never given. Shaun is struggling to keep his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), interested, and after he recommends his favorite tavern for a romantic dinner things are through. Just as it seems as though things can’t get any worse it does, and the zombies arrive on the scene (although calling them that is bad luck). Shaun is totally oblivious to this fact until a close encounter puts him in the spotlight to save his friends, and escape the undead.
First and foremost think about what a melding of the comedy and horror genres would be like with a dry British wit and none of the Wayan’s brothers within 5000 miles, and this is what you would expect. The jokes are funny, the visual cues are funnier, and the dialog is the best. Shaun of the Dead has a smart, witty, fast script that doesn’t sit around with one joke too long and has life to make even the undead…well…pretty damn lively. Whereas Dawn of the Dead had the underscore of consumerism in our society, Shaun of the Dead follows the same trend in making the everyday, working man look like a mindless fiend bent on getting through the day alive only to plod through another. This joke is alluded to earlier in the film before it is blatantly summarized in the closing montage.
Towards the climax the comedy routine seems to taper off as the horror aspect clearly makes its mark. For a comedy you may not find a more gruesome 90 minutes as far as dismemberment and bloodshed, and no, sitting through Along Came Polly doesn’t count as gruesome, only retarded. For the squeamish there are a few instances they might want to avoid, including the vivid dismemberment of a human at the hands of a gang of zombies. Unlike the walking undead of 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake, these are your standard slow zombies, who are so transfixed on their next helping of brains that they are easy enough to get by in small numbers.
Shaun of the Dead has sleeper hit written all over it, and it would be one if it didn’t shatter the British box office earlier this year. The film is ripe with social commentary, gore, violence, language, and a bit of a relationship troubles for the ladies out there. While the plot itself isn’t anything particularly new, the execution and writing make the film one of the very best of the year and a must see for anyone who has grown tired of traditional cinema and is looking for something that is 99.9% pure entertainment.