Shaun of the Dead
like the supernatural beings that they are based upon, zombie movies are
sort of an unstoppable force. They'll lay low for a decade or two, but
eventually they'll come shambling back into the multiplexes. The dead
eyes, the vacant stares, the mindless bloodlust; it is all an idea that is
ripe for parody.
is, of course, overlooking the fact that all zombie films are essentially
parodies, from the granddaddy of them all, The Night of the Living Dead
through Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies. In the past year, the
zombies have come stumbling back with a vengeance, first there was the
British thriller 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead
(which was the sequel of Night of the Living Dead, which has also
been remade... oh, it all gets rather incestuous in the zombie movie
world.). Essentially they all have the same storyline. The dead
come back to life, and boy, are they hungry. The only thing which will
sate their ravenous appetites is human flesh. They are slow and not
that smart, but as they convert their victims to the undead they are
suddenly everywhere -- a mindless, massive horde bent upon destruction.
Anyway, the third helping of rotting corpses to hit our multiplex screens in
2004 is also the best, quite simply because it makes no airs -- it is blatantly and completely a
comedy. Shaun of the Dead is a British goof on the genre.
Co-screenwriter Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, a guy stuck in a rut. He
hates his job as a television salesman. His girlfriend Liz (Kate
Ashfield) is ready to leave him because it seems all he wants to do is hang
out at the Pub every night, hoisting a few pints with his immature college
buddy Ed (Nick Frost.) He doesn't get along with his step-father (Bill
Nighy) and sometimes gets annoyed with his dithering mother (Penelope
Wilton). He does
the same things every day; play video games, buy the paper, go to work, go
to the Winchester (the local pub), drink, go home, sleep... rinse and
repeat, ad nauseum.
Shaun is so wrapped up in his fetid life and problems that he barely
notices that all of his neighbors are suddenly limping down the street with
their arms outstretched, grimacing in horror, groaning in pain and seeking
fresh meat. When he finally realizes what is happening, he tries to
save his friends, lover and his mum from the visiting scourge. He does
it in a typical Shaun way (he decides the ideal place to wait out the zombie
attack is where he always goes anyway, the pub.) However, as he and
his charges are put into greater and greater danger, only then does he find
the strength within him.
it seems, Shaun was already a zombie, just one who was alive. Fighting
off the already dead makes Shaun a better man. It's
a one-joke premise, but it is a pretty funny joke, so I'll give the
filmmakers some slack.
is very funny as a frustrated everyman thrust into a very odd situation.
All he really wants from life is to be left alone with his gal and his buds,
and frankly all these flesh eaters are a pretty big pain in the ass.
He is thrust into a leadership role that he is not ready for and he makes as
many mistakes as he has triumphs. His best friend Ed is always
dragging him down, but their friendship is long and grounded in a shared
history and love for fart jokes.
film is also funny in the fact that they try to make the zombies into a
Jerry Springer kind of oddity. Being an undead flesh eater is just
another weird perversion to be exploited in the world.
I really rather enjoyed Shaun of the
Dead, although I don't expect I'll ever watch it again, or even likely
think of it again after writing this article. Perhaps I'm just not a
big enough fan of the genre to get totally geeked up about it,
honestly some of the violence is awfully graphic for a comedy (in particular
the scene where the zombies capture Lizzie's nerdy roommate David.). I
know a movie about man-eating zombies, even a funny one, is going to have
some horrific moments, but still...
Shaun of the Dead won't win any
Oscars, but it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. (9/04)
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Posted: December 25, 2004.