“Oh for God’s sake! He’s got an arm off!”
Such is the result when you combine witty brit-humor (or should I say humour?) with the overly done cliched zombie-apocalypse. Shaun of the Dead isn’t just a parody or just another exercise in getting you to laugh at something disgusting. Its a little of both, and that is what makes it so great. Where as other movies fade to one extreme or the other, Shaun of the Dead never loses its integrity in the middle. It is funny, romantic, endearing, tense, and action packed, without ever feeling forced or tasteless. Most important though, Shaun of the Dead is a social commentary which points out how close we all are to turning into zombies ourselves; not physically, but in the manner in which we live our lives on a day-to-day basis and especially in our relationships.
Synopsis: Shaun of the Dead follows the familiar premise of surviving a zombie invasion and then points out what is inherently absurd about the whole situation. The story begins with Shaun, an appliance salesman and his roommate (sorry…flatmate) Ed, who are pretty much middle-aged losers with nothing going for them in life. Liz is Shaun’s ex-girlfriend, who broke up with Shaun because he can’t make decisions, hence his current state in life (and hence the irony of zombies invading). When zombies invade, Shaun decides its time for a change and he decides to save his friends and family by rounding them all up and bringing them to his local pub, which he believes will be easy to board up in until help arrives. Unfortunately for Shaun, he is the only one really motivated to do this, and complications arise as Shaun learns that his past inability to make decisions will come back to haunt him (see the irony now?)
Acting: Simon Pegg (Star Trek) plays Shaun. Pegg does a magnificent job creating a funny character out of serious situations, and creating a funny situation when his character is serious. His performance and especially the chemistry with Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) who plays his roommate is what defines the tone of the movie. Similarly, Kate Ashfield (Beyond Borders) has excellent chemistry with Pegg as Liz, and even if their relationship onscreen doesn’t feel entirely real, her character seems sincere. Lucy Davis (from the British version of The Office) and Dylan Moran (Run Fatboy Run) play Liz’s friends, and work as excellent counters to Shaun’s newly discovered decisionmaking ability. Pinelope Wilton (Calendar Girls) plays Shaun’s behind-the-times mom, and her character is perfect in capturing the sterotypical “mom” that we all love, except when she cramps our style. Finally, the excellent Bill Nighly (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) shows that he can play characters that aren’t evil, and does a fabulous job even if he isn’t in the movie much. (23/25)
Script/Plot: Obviously a British movie, Shaun of the Dead relies heavily on dialogue (ah you noticed the British spelling again, bravo!) and visual gags rather than action or suspense to drive the plot. As such, it can feel long-winded at times, especially when it gets caught up in seemingly superficial details. However, these superficial details help to add to the absurdity of the situation, such as a scene where the characters all practice pretending to be zombies. Its funny, but at the sacrifice of pacing. Similarly, the scenes involving the characters arguing tends to get old after a while, and especially towards the climax when the movie suddely gets a serious tone. Sure, the serious tone drives home the message of the film, but seems out of place or even forced. The dialogue (yeah there it is again…) is undoubtedly the best part of the movie, especially when you take it as toungue-in-cheek (“Dogs can’t look up!“). (21/25)
Direction: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz) is director here. His style is perfect for this movie, with the most brilliant aspect being quick cut shots between scenes rapidly paced one after another to illistrate a character doing a mundane task or getting ready for something. It adds another layer of obsurdity to the film, adding “intense action” to things we would easily consider boring, such as getting ready for work. Another interesting aspect of the direction is that Wright manages to keep the camera at the character’s eye level almost the entire movie. Not only does this make the situation feel more like real life and less like a movie, this helps to keep the story focused on the characters, not on the zombies or the destroyed city. (23/25)
Special Effects/Music/X-Factor: The zombie effects and gore of this movie are top notch, despite it being primarily a comedy. I can think of one scene in particular when a character gets literally ripped from limb-to-limb that is especially disturbing, but you can’t help but laugh out loud even if you feel sorry or like you are going to vomit. That’s the beauty of this film, and hence its calling card; its ability to make things that aren’t funny at all ubsurdly hilarious when shed in a slightly different light. Even more impressive, this film somehow extracts real meaning out of its tendencies towards the ubsurd; yes, apparently you can still play videogames when you are a zombie, what does that say about the impact of videogames? Finally, the music is also very good. It is as equally absurd as the characters and their actions, thus fitting perfectly into the theme of the movie. (24/25)
What Kept Me Watching: Very original direction of an unoriginal premise, the brit-humour is consistently funny, as are the actors. Some great action and an endearing romantic tone throughout.
What Killed It: Its not entirely action packed, some weird tone shifts, and pacing issues.
Final Rating: (91/100)= A-
Summary: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gag, and then you’ll learn something about human relationships.