ZOMBIE Week – Shaun of the Dead (2004) Review

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When Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright announced Shaun of the Dead in 2003, revealing that they were making a zom-rom-com, a romantic comedy with zombies, based on their fanboy love for George A. Romero’s “Dead” films, fans of Wright and Pegg and their previous work, such as the cult Channel 4 show, Spaced, were excited about the possibilities of this interesting new project.

Fast forward ten years and Shaun of the Dead is a cult classic in its own right, a film beloved by both genre fans as well as the general public who helped make it a success when it was released in 2004 to critical and commercial acclaim. Since its release we have seen Wright go on to do plenty of other titles, including Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and further “Cornetto” films with Pegg, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, but arguably, Shaun of the Dead remains Pegg and Wright’s most popular and warmly thought-of film, a zombie film with heart, and brains, plenty of brains. Now, how’s that for a slice of fried gold?

For those of you reading this who haven’t seen this film, which I don’t imagine there are many of, you should do yourself a favour and watch the film, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret it. My favourite of either Pegg or Wright’s works, I can still throw this on when it’s raining outside and I need something to smile at, and this will do that. It’s just one of those sparks of brilliance in cinema that only comes around once in a while, once in a great big while.

The plot, if you’re not aware a decade on, follows Shaun, a retail clerk from London who lives with his mate Ed (Nick Frost) and their friend-slash-grumpy flatmate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) and are plodding along, doing nothing spectacular in life. Suddenly everything comes crashing down at Shaun’s feet. His girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) dumps him because he isn’t striving to better himself or his situation. His flatmate Pete is getting tired of his and Ed’s friendship and refusal to “grow up”. Oh, and there is a zombie apocalypse happening in the street outside his house. This, along with Shaun’s turbulent relationship with his Step-dad, Phillip, brings Shaun’s life to a halt and causes him to be forced into doing something big in order to fix his situation, save his ex-girlfriend, and avoid having to talk to Phillip.

A fantastic British cast and stellar comedy writing from Wright, this is just a perfect mixture of horror and comedy. The horror isn’t scary but, at times, it sure is gory. There are scenes which have become iconic too, such as the scene in Shaun’s garden where he and Ed are throwing vinyl records at two stumbling zombies, or the scene inside the pub where a variety of our “survivors” are beating the heck out of a walking dead with pool cues to the sound of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” on the jukebox. It’s just so well done, and the timing of Pegg makes it special, he has never been better than he is here. A loser-turned-hero, an everyman that we can identify with, Shaun is a character that we can get on board with, understand, and root for.

With cameos from the likes of Matt Lucas and Martin Freeman, and fun performances from British comedy talent such as Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis and Rafe Spall, there is no shortage of laugh-out-load moments, and there are moments of real tension in there too, such as the quiet segments where our protagonists are attempting to walk amongst zombies without being “found out”. Brilliant.

Spot-on practical effects and slow moving zombies that made George Romero proud, instantly-quotable dialogue, wonderful homages to zombie cinema history, this cult classic is one that we couldn’t possibly leave out during our week devoted to the creeping flesh eating ghouls we know and, well, love. What is surprising, it is worth noting, is that this film is popular not just in the UK. Much of this film is “very British” with its use of Brit-slang and nods to certain British customs and pop culture themes, yet it translated well to the US, Canada, Australia and many other countries all over the world, further proof of just how good this film is.

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