minor plot points revealed!
Wow! It's been a great year for Zombie movies. And
it seems that the British are becoming the new masters of the genre (28
Days Later). I only heard about Shaun of the Dead a couple months ago and
I'm so glad I did. I know I tend to disagree with the "other"
reviewers from time to time, but this time we are all in agreement. Shaun
of the Dead is a comic/horror masterpiece. It is one of my favorite films
of the year so far and will definitely be in my Top 10 of 2004.
I don't even know where to begin when explaining how great this movie is.
First of all it's hilarious. And by that I mean it is absolutely one of
the funniest films I've seen all year. Here's an illustration to prove my
point: In one scene, Shaun and his roommate Ed defend themselves against
zombies in their backyard by throwing record albums from Shaun's
collection at the zombie's heads. But they actually take the time to flip
through the records and discuss whether the album can be sacrificed. Some,
like Dire Straits or the Batman soundtrack can be used in the name of
survival, but an original pressing of New Order's "Blue Monday"
just can't be parted with. George Romero (Night of the Living
would be proud.
The film is also scary/gory. There are some genuine scares and lots of
guts and gore. Unlike many zombie films, this movie has a heart and
actually makes you feel attached to the characters. Therefore it's all the
more shocking and difficult as they are lost to the zombie hordes during
the course of the film. You can't really be scared unless you have some
investment in the characters and pretty much everyone in Shaun of the Dead
is well fleshed-out. heh heh.
The story is basically the Dawn of the Dead zombie tale we are all
familiar with but it has been spun this time from the perspective of a
couple of London slackers. Shaun, a clerk at an electronics store, and his
stoner loser friend Ed spend most of their days and nights drunk, high and
playing video games. Shaun's relationships with his girlfriend, parents
and other roommate are crumbling. At the same time, unbeknownst to these
drunken goofballs, society is collapsing and everyone around them is
turning into flesh munching zombies. By the time they realize what is
going on, most everybody has been "turned" and it's up to Shaun
to finally demonstrate his leadership abilities as he collects his parents and girlfriend in a rescue
mission that will ultimately lead to the pub where Shaun and Ed spend most
of their time and where they feel they will be safe from the undead
OK. Now I want to be serious for a moment. I honestly think that this is a
truly great film. I know I tend to think everything is a truly great film
but this time I need you to believe me. You may have noticed that I
recently gave the critically panned Resident Evil: Apocalypse a 5 star
score. That was because I loved it for the rip roaring non-stop action
frenzy that is was. Now according to my sub-genre specific grading scale
that is a great score for what I consider to be a great film of the zombie
genre. Shaun of the Dead got my "perfect" + star movie rating
because it's not just a perfect zombie movie, it's actually a super
terrific comedy and drama as well.
Another great comedy scene involved Shaun and his friends "acting
like zombies" to get through a zombie crowd that has gathered outside
the pub where they plan to hide. This is just another of the many, many
hilarious scenes in the movie.
The special effects are very good for a zombie movie. Very gory, ala Peter
Jackson's Dead Alive but also cartoonish enough to be reminiscent of Sam
Raimi's Evil Dead II: Dead by
Dawn. The zombies are not the shrieking and
sprinting variety that made 28 Days Later and the remake of
Dawn of the
Dead so exciting. These are the familiar lumbering type that you can
actually outrun but who tend to assimilate their victims by outnumbering
relentlessly pursuing regardless of their retarded gait. And as per zombie
mythology, the only real way to stop them is decapitation or destruction
of the brain.
The music for the film is notable as well. As Shaun flips through the
channels on the TV and skips past the news casts warning of the zombie
infestation, he stops for a moment on The Smiths video for 'Panic' [on the
Streets of London.] Then during one of the scenes at the bar they fend off
a full scale zombie attack to the sound of a somewhat obscure, but
favorite Queen song of mine, 'Don't Stop Me Now.' The end credits also use
Queen's 'You're My Best Friend' (which was the first dance for my wife and
I at our wedding) and the goofy muzak from the mall in the original Dawn
of the Dead.
The actors in this film are all brilliant. Simon Pegg plays Shaun and also
co-wrote the film. He makes Shaun a character that you really want to see
succeed. He can be both funny and serious when need be. There are a few
moments of genuine drama in the film. These moments, usually featuring
Shaun, are the reason that the film does not dissolve into parody. Nick
Frost, the actor who plays Ed is one of the funniest characters I've ever
scene. One of the best Ed moments is when he intentionally crashes their
escape vehicle in order to commandeer a cool Jaguar that he would rather
drive instead. The rest of the cast is equally great. Kate Ashfield is
splendid as Shaun's long suffering girlfriend Liz. Lucy Davis and Dylan
Moran (who looks like John Cusack during his Better Off Dead days) are fun
as Liz's flatmates. And finally Shaun's mom and step-dad are wonderfully
played by Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy.
At the end of the film we find out that not all the zombies have been
destroyed and we see some of the ways they have been incorporated into
society such as contestants on reality shows and doing simple low wage
tasks like collecting shopping carts from the parking lot at the grocery
Even though missing Shaun of the Dead at the theatre would be a crime, it
will probably play just as well when it comes out on DVD. As said, it is a
British film so those of you who can't understand English with a British
accent may want to wait for the subtitled DVD. The accents are not that
think though and nobody in the theatre with me seemed to miss any of the
Will there be a sequel? I heard there are a few clues on the already
released British Shaun of the Dead DVD which hint toward a sequel. Simon
Pegg mentions during a commentary track that the sequel will be called
"From Dusk 'Till Shaun". Shaun versus vampires eh? Brilliant!