“Shaun of the Dead” Movie Review

Just as with Bone Tomahawk, I went looking for horror movies that weren’t exactly horror movies. This is by far the best result. Released in late September of 2004, this *extremely* British horror comedy earned back nearly 5 times its $6.1 million budget. The 2nd feature film by Edgar Wright, and the first one to actually be released theatrically, the film marked the inauguration of his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. It was apparently conceived when he and star/co-writer Simon Pegg worked together on the show Spaced. Pegg stars as the titular character Shaun, a salesman dealing with a laundry list of personal problems. As he’s trying to get a focus with his girlfriend, stepfather, and mother, a zombie apocalypse breaks out. He and his best friend Ed, played by Nick Frost, haven’t the foggiest idea of how to survive, but they decide to push through London to find their loved ones. Honestly, the zombie genre now is as dead as the monsters the stars run away from. I mean, I still really like The Walking Dead and there is another film from 2017 called The Girl With All the Gifts that I do recommend watching. But for the most part, it’s damn-near impossible to add anything new to the genre that George A. Romero created. But Edgar Wright and CO. aren’t concerned in the slightest with reinventing the zombie movie. Their goal is to mock it and simultaneously celebrate it, and by God did they accomplish it. Like most of Wright’s films, Shaun of the Dead injects references to other films of the genre, most notably Dawn of the Dead. Funny enough, the Zach Snyder remake of Dawn was released around the same time as this. Much like his followup Hot Fuzz did with action movies, this movie doesn’t simply piggyback off of the established tropes of zombie films. In fact, Wright, Frost, and Pegg continuously poke fun at them while simultaneously subverting them. There’s actually a scene near the very beginning of the film where Frost’s character lays out the entire 99-minute plot to come. But much like Wes Craven’s Scream, you don’t think much of it and the rest of the movie is allowed to continue. Simon Pegg is perfect in the role of Shaun. Like some of his other characters, at times, he can seem like a total jerk. But he always delivers his lines with excellent timing. Right by his side is the hilarious Nick Frost as his best friend, who is equally oblivious to the world-ending occurring all around him. Their chemistry is spot on, with one particular scene of them arguing which records to throw at advancing zombies being positively gut-bursting. Kate Ashfield and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis are equally funny in their supporting roles as love interests, while Peter Serafinowicz is a perfect snobby idiot driving our heroes around. Bill Nighy plays his usual self: a tall, awkward Englishman with an odd speech impediment. But he is so perfect in it that he is great as the main character’s detached stepfather. Technically speaking, this is an Edgar Wright film through and through. Chris Dickens’ frenetic editing job captures the fast-paced nature of the action and humor. It being a shade over an hour-and-a-half, it sometimes feels a little too fast for its own good. But Wright’s constant and kinetic direction gives it an energy and personality missing in most comedies. At one point in the movie, a character is getting brutally murdered and is put in perfect sync with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and think of how the director did a similar tactic in Baby Driver with the action scenes. That being said, despite having a smile on my face throughout most of the film, there were some very inconsistent emotional moments. Near the end of the film at the bar, there was a sudden tonal shift that felt kind of compromising. The movie has a large heart covered in undead guts, but not quite as gut-wrenching as it wants to be. Aside from that, the film is still awesome, totally rewatchable, and packed with great quotes you’ll be remembering for days. Shaun of the Dead is a rambunctious romp of fast-paced humor and a love letter to its own genre. A definite modern classic of both comedy and horror, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost have done George A. Romero proud.

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