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Shaun of the Dead Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/26/2005

I rented Shaun of the Dead because I wanted to make a comparison between the recently released Land of the Dead and other zombie movies that had been released of the last two years.  I had been hearing about this movie when it hit theaters last September, but it was just one of many films I didn’t get a chance to check out in the latter half of 2004 (see here for an explanation.)  Now that it is on DVD, I felt like it was relevant to my review of Land.  I knew that it was a zombie comedy, but it was better than I had expected.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old sales manager at Foree Electric, an appliance store in London.  It is a go-nowhere job, which matches his go-nowhere life.  He has forgotten his anniversary with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who dumps him soon after he attempts to get a table at the Winchester Tavern, a local pub that they have already been to one too many times before, and for passing off flowers to her that were originally intended for his mother Barbara (Penelope Wilton.)  Her friends Diane (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran) are happy about his dumping, because they both don’t like Shaun.  Shaun’s slacker unemployed flat-mate and friend Ed (Nick Frost) sponges off him while playing the video game Timesplitters 2, something that Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), his other flat-mate, is ticked off about.  If all of that wasn’t bad enough, the dead have risen from the grave and are thirsty for human flesh.  Not that Shaun or Ed at notice at first; he’s too busy sulking over his crappy life.  It’s not until a zombie attacks Shaun and gets impaled on a pipe that they do something about it.  They watch the news and hear that the way to deal with the living dead is to remove their heads or injure their brains, so they go to the shed to get some weapons, including a shovel and a cricket bat.  They know that their flat is no longer safe, so Shaun wants to pick up Liz and his mom, kill his stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy) whom has supposedly been bitten (something that his mom had told him over the phone), and take them to the Winchester where they will be safe.  Shaun and Ed head over to Barbara and Philip’s house, where they discover that Philip isn’t quite dead yet.  The four head over to Liz’s place, where Shaun manages to convince her to come, along with Diane and David.  While trying to make it to the pub, Shaun bumps into Yvonne (Jessica Stevenson), an old friend from school who is leading another party of survivors to a safe haven.  They hug and go on their way (apparently, Yvonne doesn’t think that the Winchester is that safe of a haven.)  They eventually make it to the pub, and it’s a matter of survival before the zombies get in.

I had thought that this movie was going to be a spoof, but it wasn’t.  It was a serious zombie movie (or as serious as a zombie movie can get) that just happened to be a comedy.  Highlights include Shaun and Ed hurling selective Prince LP’s at zombies (they don’t want to damage Purple Rain or Sign ‘O’ the Times, but the Batman soundtrack was okay to throw), and their proposed plan to pick up his mom and girlfriend and go to the Winchester.

The only thing about the movie that I didn’t like were the inside jokes.  Pegg and the director Edgar Wright co-wrote the script, and it contained many references to their Channel 4 British sitcom “Spaced.”  There are several actors from the show (including Pegg, Frost, and Stevenson) who play parts in the movie, and they lift jokes from that show, including some joke about dogs not being able to look up (I didn’t get it…I guess I’d have to see the show to understand it.)  Some British fans of the movie consider it just a spin-off of the show, but that doesn’t do any good for us Yanks.

Despite some confusing in-jokes, Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious movie that takes it’s zombie gore seriously.  It isn’t like the Scary Movie series or other parodies of zombie movies, though it does make references to George A. Romero’s Dead movies, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, 28 Days Later, and more.  If you are a fan of Coldplay, lead singer Chris Martin and guitarist Jon Buckland make cameo appearances as zombies in it.  The DVD contains deleted and extended scenes, commentaries, “Missing Bits” (they attempt to explain plot holes in the movie with comic book drawings), “TV Bits” (they show an example of their attempt to “clean up” a scene with foul language), and more.  Check it out and see for yourself that it is one of the better zombie movies of the last few years.


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