Shaun of the Dead
Usually, a zombie flick is full of dread, horror and terror. With Shaun of the Dead a certain song lyric came to mind "itís the end of the world as we know it and I feel fineÖ" This is not your typical zombie film; unlike most films that feature the undead this one is actually intentionally funny. Shaun of the Dead is almost like an internalized Mystery Science Fiction 3000, instead of sitting in front of the screen making fun of the action the characters here do a great job from within the film. The story is fundamentally a bizarre love story. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an average guy, the sort of guy that likes to hang out in the local pub, the Winchester, has a girlfriend, a pair of mismatched flat mates and a dead end job at a local electronics store. For Shaun the pub is more than a place to get a drink, it is the center of his universe. There is little wonder as to why his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is upset, after all, the only place they ever go is the Winchester to hang out. Even though the neighborhood is slowly turning into undead, cannibalistic creatures, Shaun is far too preoccupied by Lizís anger, fights between his roommates and his step father to even notice. The television has news of zombies roaming London but it barely registers with Shaun as he flips through the channels. Eventually, the zombies attack Shaun and his stoner buddy Ed (Nick Frost), initially they think itís a drunk girl trying to kiss them but after Shaun pushes her onto a poll and she gets up complete with a huge hole in her midsection, the boys conclude that something is amiss. There is the mandatory collect the survivors and fight your way to shelter but this is a treatment like none you have ever seen.
There are so many parodies of zombie flicks I lost count after the first few minutes. We all know the traditional zombie is slow, here Shaun and Ed debate the merits of the records they are using to toss at the creatures, Stone Roses is spared but Sade and Dire Straights become futile missiles. At one point the groups of survivors act like zombies in order to get pass a tangle of them. There is blood and gore abounding as the small group wind their way to the only safe place they can think of, the Winchester pub. All the while Liz and Shaun bicker, Lizís roommate make fun of Ed and in several instances Ed stops fighting the zombies to take a phone call telling the person on the other end that he can sell him pot at the moment. You keep expecting the typical reveal of the zombie jumping out to attack someone only to have the creature pushed aside almost nonchalantly.
Currently, Mr. Pegg may be best known as Montgomery Scott in the rebooted Star Trek franchise. Not only does in appear in these films but he wrote the screenplay for the most resent offering. His early career was predominately in the sophisticated and deliciously dry British sense of humor making him a performer of extraordinary accomplishments and abilities at the pinnacle of his art. The deadpan persona of Simon Pegg really carries this film. He is the epitome of British humor, nuanced and sarcastic, infused with a myriad of sly references to what seems to be every pop culture reference of the last twenty years. With his cricket bat in hand he bashes at the zombies while trying to make up with his girlfriend. After all, the world may be overrun by the undead but no man wants to be dumped by his girl. Kate Ashfield is absolutely perfect as the neglected girlfriend. Even as the zombies are killing everyone around them she is able to tell Shaun the many reasons she dumped him. There is even a very funny scene where the two reconcile as they consider who should kill whom should the zombies break through. Even the smallest roles here are so well cast that you fall right into their petty problems with glee. No wonder his portrayal of the most iconic engineer in Starfleet has been met with such universal acclaim. If you have to face a zombie apocalypse, forget the Ďprepperí shows, Iíd much rather fight the hordes of the undead at my local pub with a few good mates.
This is director Edgar Wright first feature length film, typically he has worked in British television and a lot of the feel of the film reflects this background. The flick is paced perfectly. At first there it looks like any of a hundred television shows about a slacker guy and the girl that wants him to be more ambitious. Even though the cast is oblivious we start to catch little things in the background. People wandering around in a stupor, a homeless man with an empty dog leash, we all know what happened to the pouch. The culture references are not intended to make any real comment on society. While held up in the bar a zombie is beaten while Queen plays on the jukebox, the clubs swing in time to the music, survivors sway to the beat. Wright chose not to show heroic deeds, the people here stumble into successfully dispatching a creature. Be sure to keep watching to the very end with this film. Wright keeps the laughs going until the end. Just before the credits the aftermath of ĎZí day is shown, zombies used in game shows, as menial labor and even a talk show "Iím married to a monster". Yes, the public would find a reality television show to make use of left over zombies. This film would not be the same if done here in the States, the dryness of British humor is what really makes it work.
Not only is this film better than I could have imagined the Blu-ray presentation is fantastic. The video is presented in full 2.35:1 with the clarity that still makes Blu-ray the current best popular standard. Sure the upcoming 4K Ultra high definition is a technological marvel with truly amazing stats but letís face it in this instance it is over kill. The color balance was intentionally set on the muted side. This was very much a stylistic decision agreed upon by the director and cinematographer to enhance the pervading mood created by the circumstances. The audio really stands out. The high energy sound track booms out at your, the sub-woofer is in almost constant over drive. The rear speakers are used to full effectiveness. You can hear the zombies moan all over the room as they plod towards the hapless crew. There are multiple commentary tracks to be heard. The first features Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. This one focuses more on how the film came to production and some of the inside jokes are explained. The second commentary also has Pegg, this time with most of the main cast. There is a lot of overlapping information but I found the cast a little more interesting to listen to. Add to this out takes, deleted scenes, casting tapes and some extended scenes and the laughter will continue after you are through with the film. Watch this after viewing a few of the more mainstream flicks and be prepared to have some laughs.
There are several editions of this film available but personally I find the Blu-ray the best not only in terms of the audio and video specifications but also as far of as far as additional material is concerned. The Blu-ray exclusives that were provided on top of the original informative and highly entertaining supplements contained on the DVD release represent some of the most entertaining and informative material for such a release.
Posted 12/14/04 11/12/2014 08/09/2016