“An Absolute Blast!”
– George Romero
“It’s a 10 on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic.”
– Stephen King
“The Most Entertaining Film I Have Seen All Year.”
– Peter Jackson
Do you still need little old me to convince you to see the damn movie? Aah, if you insist… “Shaun of the Dead” IS an absolute blast, it IS an instant cult classic and, if it’s not the most entertaining film I have seen all year, it’s certainly right up there. It’s an hilarious comedy on top of a kick-ass horror movie, probably the best film of its kind since From Dusk Till Dawn.
Like that Tarantino-Rodriguez collaboration, the great thing about “Shaun of the Dead” is that it starts out like a character piece, so when the bloody guts hit the fan, it’s all the more involving because you’ve had time to get to know the characters. Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a 29 year old stuck in a dead-end job, afraid of commitment with his girlfriend, still not over his mother remarrying 17 years ago, hanging on to his juvenile college roommate Ed (Nick Frost) and wasting away every night getting drunk at the Winchester.
The idea, of course, is that Shaun and his generation as a whole are already zombies. They go through life without ambition, fearing change, slow to take action, indifferent to the world around them. The big joke of the first act is how there are all these signs of the upcoming zombie invasion, but no one seems to notice them. Odd goings-on are ignored, sinister news bulletins are clicked away and even when the undead start wandering around, everyone figures they’re just more of the usual drunks, crackheads and hobos the streets are always full of.
This is played for laughs, but director Edgar Wright also builds up suspense and dread, better than a lot of straight horror flicks in fact. And when the movie goes into full gore mode, the laughs keep coming but there are some genuine scares and thrills as well. It’s a difficult balancing act, but Wright and Pegg (who co-wrote the film) pull it off magnificently. Just take this early scene where zombies attack Ed and Shaun’s apartment and they throw random objects at them, including records:
“Wait! Some of those are limited editions!”
“Sign o’ the Times.”
“The Batman soundtrack?”
The guys eventually settle on a shovel and a cricket bat (!), and we get a lot of cool zombie bashing, with lots of wonderfully low-budget practical effects and gore. The film hits all the usual beats you expect, but it remains irresistibly irreverent and the characters and their relationships develop amongst the mayhem. All that’s missing is musical numbers but wait! we get a couple of those as well (sort of)!
SHAUN OF THE DEAD is now available on DVD, with special features including outtakes, deleted scenes, cast and crew commentary and more.