Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead is almost like an internalized Mystery Science Fiction 3000

Shaun of the Dead

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Usually, a zombie flick is full of dread, horror and terror. With Shawn of the Dead a certain song lyric came to mind "it’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…"

This is not your typical zombie film; unlike most films that feature the undead this one is actually intentionally funny. Shaun of the Dead is almost like an internalized Mystery Science Fiction 3000, instead of sitting in front of the screen making fun of the action the characters here do a great job from within the film.

Shaun of the Dead is fundamentally a bizarre love story. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an average guy, the sort of guy that like to hang out in the local pub, the Winchester, has a girl friend, a pair of mismatched flat mates and a dead end job at a local electronics store. For Shaun the pub is more than a place to get a drink, it is the center of his universe. There is little wonder as to why his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is upset, after all, the only place they ever go is the Winchester to hang out. Even though the neighborhood is slowly turning into undead, cannibalistic creatures, Shaun is far too preoccupied by Liz’s anger, fights between his room mates and his step father to even notice. The television has news of zombies roaming London but it barely registers with Shaun as he flips through the channels. Eventually, the zombies attack Shaun and his stoner buddy Ed (Nick Frost), initially they think it’s a drunk girl trying to kiss them but after Shaun pushes her onto a poll and she gets up complete with a huge hole in her midsection, the boys conclude that something is amiss. There is the mandatory collect the survivors and fight your way to shelter but this is a treatment like none you have ever seen.

There are so many parodies of zombie flicks I lost count after the first few minutes. We all know the traditional zombie is slow, here Shaun and Ed debate the merits of the records they are using to toss at the creatures, Stone Roses is spared but Sade and Dire Straights become futile missiles. At one point the groups of survivors act like zombies in order to get passed a tangle of them. There is blood and gore abounding as the small group wind their way to the only safe place they can think of, the Winchester pub. All the while Liz and Shaun bicker, Liz’s room mate make fun of Ed and in several instances Ed stops fighting the zombies to take a phone call telling the person on the other end that he can sell him pot at the moment. You keep expecting the typical reveal of the zombie jumping out to attack someone only to have the creature pushed aside almost nonchalantly.

The deadpan persona of Simon Pegg really carries Shaun of the Dead. He is the epitome of British humor, dry and sarcastic, full of sly references to what seems to be every pop culture reference of the last twenty years. With his cricket bat in hand he bashes at the zombies while trying to make up with his girl friend. After all, the world may be over run by the undead but no man wants to be dumped by his girl. Kate Ashfield is absolutely perfect as the neglected girl friend. Even as the zombies are killing everyone around them she is able to tell Shaun the many reasons she dumped him. There is even a very funny scene where the two reconcile as they consider who should kill whom should the zombies break through. Even the smallest roles here are so well cast that you fall right into their petty problems with glee!

Shaun of the Dead is director Edgar Wright first feature length film, typically he has worked in British television and a lot of the feel of Shaun of the Dead reflects this background. Shaun of the Dead is paced perfectly. At first there it looks like any of a hundred television shows about a slacker guy and the girl that wants him to be more ambitious. Even though the cast is oblivious we start to catch little things in the background. People wandering around in a stupor, a homeless man with an empty dog leash, we all know what happened to the pouch. The culture references are not intended to make any real comment on society. While held up in the bar a zombie is beaten while Queen plays on the jukebox, the clubs swing in time to the music, survivors sway to the beat. Wright chose not to show heroic deeds, the people here stumble into successfully dispatching a creature. Be sure to keep watching to the very end with Shaun of the Dead. Wright keeps the laughs going until the end. Just before the credits the aftermath of ‘Z’ day is shown, zombies used in game shows, as menial labor and even a talk show "I’m married to a monster". Yes, the public would find a reality television show to make use of left over zombies. Shaun of the Dead would not be the same if done here in the States, the dryness of British humor is what really makes it work.

Not only is Shaun of the Dead better than I could have imagined the DVD presentation is fantastic. The video is presented in full 2.35:1 anamorphic; the picture is crystal clear and completely free of any defects. The color balance is a bit on the intentionally muted side. The audio really stands out. The high energy sound track booms out at your, the sub woofer is in almost constant over drive. The rear speakers are use to full effectiveness. You can hear the zombies moan all over the room as they plod towards the hapless crew. There are multiple commentary tracks to be heard. The first features Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. This one focuses more on how Shaun of the Dead came to production and some of the inside jokes are explained. The second commentary also has Pegg, this time with most of the main cast. There is a lot of overlapping information but I found the cast a little more interesting to listen to. Add to this out takes, deleted scenes, casting tapes and some extended scenes and the laughter will continue after you are through with the film. Watch Shaun of the Dead after viewing a few of the more mainstream flicks and be prepared to have some laughs.

Movie Review of Shaun of the Dead by Doug MacLean of

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