Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead (UK/France/USA, 2004) - Color, Director(s): Edgar Wright
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 99 min.

Z-rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5

Shaun of the Dead is a romantic zombie comedy that is brilliant on so many levels, for me to describe it just wouldn't do it any justice. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this review and just go watch it. You won't regret it. The script is solid and does a fantastic job setting up jokes that pay off later in the movie. There are references to other films, directors, and actors that are so subtle you'd miss them if you blinked. Unlike those garbage "spoof" movies like Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc. that unrelentingly beat you over the head with their references. In addition to the great cast, Edgar Wright is a talented director who adds more depth to the movie through visual comedy. Tony Zhou of Every Frame A Painting explains this better than I ever could, so check out this episode he does about Edgar Wright's directing style:

The movie opens with a musical cue from the original Dawn of the Dead playing over Universal logo. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his girlfriend Liz are discussing their relationship problems at the local pub, The Winchester, with Shaun's friend Ed and Liz's flatmates David and Dianne (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis). Shaun promises things will change as we cut to the opening credits.

We see that Shaun's life is a mess, his bestfriend Ed (Nick Frost) is a deadbeat loser who sits on the couch playing games all day and selling pot. Shaun is working a dead end job where he gets no respect from the people younger than him. He's also having a hard time juggling his relationship with Liz (Kate Ashfield) and remembering to visit his mother. The final straw is when he flubs the dinner reservations for a date with Liz and she breaks up with him. The beauty is in the way the film is set up, you know the zombie apocalypse is coming, you're expecting it to happen at any moment. Wright plays with those expectations by having ominous music cues leading up to a false scare. As he's building these characters, he's also dropping hints that bad things are happening around them. People are acting strangely, news reports and newspaper headlines all indicate there's reason to panic, and yet everyone is just going about their lives. There are scenes set up to mirror each other like when Shaun walks down to the corner store at the beginning of the film then later makes that same trip, after the zombie outbreak, completely unaware of how much the world around him has changed. This is why the movie works as a Horror Comedy without having to cross over into parody territory.

Once the outbreak officially begins, we watch Shaun mature from someone who has no direction in life and can't handle his responsibilities to becoming the take charge hero of the film. Despite being a couple of losers, Shaun and Ed rescues Shaun's mother, their friends, and find a place to hole up. The zombies themselves are classic shambling undead Romero zombies. This movie is a laugh riot and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. The home video releases include a Zomb-O-Meter, which has facts and trivia pop up throughout the film. This pointed out so many things I've missed despite repeated viewings, like the subtle nods to Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2, Suspiria, Alien, and more. If you've already seen the movie before, this is a great way to watch it again.

Nudity: None. Shaun's roommate turns into a zombie in the shower and he's naked throughout the rest of the film but nothing is explicitly shown.

Gore: Not much for a zombie movie. A few bites, a zombie is impaled on a pipe, and there's a death scene at the end that references Captain Rhodes' death in Day of the Dead. Overall, most of the gore and violence is played for laughs. Nothing too disturbing or scary.

Awesome: Very. The movie is a ton of fun to watch, I've seen it a few times and I'm still catching new things in it. I love the British slang. This was the first film in what's referred to as the "Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy" followed by Hot Fuzz and The World's End. While not a trilogy in the traditional sense, the films share common themes, actors, and are loosely connected by the Cornetto references. Each film represented by a specific flavor with Strawberry representing the blood and gore of Shaun of the Dead, the blue Original Cornetto representing the police element in Hot Fuzz and the green Mint Chocolate Chip representing aliens in The World's End. If you haven't seen these movie, I would HIGHLY recommend all three films! Have a few friends over, pick up some Cornettos if you can find them (Nestlé Drumsticks were the closest thing I could find) and have yourself a fun mini-marathon. How's that for a slice of fried gold, eh? Fun fact: Ed is playing TimeSplitters 2 on PS2 at the beginning of the film.