Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Mutilating zombies has never been funnier than in Shaun of the Dead. Taking a page from the Evil Dead franchise, this film provides plenty of blood, guts, and gut-busting comedy. But what's really brilliant about it is that it doesn't limit itself to comedy and zombie-killing, but also makes subtle commentary about real-life zombies: us.
The main character, as the title tells us, is, of course, Shaun (Simon Pegg), a 29-year-old slacker who works in an electronics store with a bunch of teenagers and spends his nights at the Winchester Tavern, getting drunk with his buddy Ed (Nick Frost), who is also crashing at his place, and his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), whose patience with his general apathy is wearing thin.
One night, Shaun fails to make proper dinner plans, and Liz dumps him outright, so Shaun and Ed go to the Winchester yet again to drown their sorrows. The next morning, a severely hungover Shaun walks to a nearby convenience store in a trance, not even noticing the carnage around him that has been caused by the walking dead. When he gets back to his house, Shaun and Ed finally figure out that these pale-faced creatures are not, in fact, just drunk, but are actually deadly zombies, and so, after some failed attempts to dispel them by throwing bad records and other such household objects at them, Shaun takes up a cricket bat, and Ed a shovel, and the two of them start whacking zombies. Shaun comes up with a plan: (1) steal roommate Pete's car, (2) pick up Liz, (3) pick up Shaun's mom and kill his step-father who has been bitten by a zombie, (4) go to the Winchester, which is somehow secure, (5) ummm... wait until they go away? Okay, so it's not the best plan in the world, but nobody else seems to have any better ideas.
Shaun of the Dead successfully lampoons every bad zombie movie that was ever made, by taking the cliches from them and turning them on their heads. For example, when Shaun procures a shotgun and starts firing on the zombies, he can't hit any of them--of course he can't, he's never even touched a shotgun before! And the screenplay is smart: these characters react as people really would react; they don't immediately know all the answers and they don't come up with great plans for destroying them. They come up with bad plans and then have to figure out step by step what to do to keep from being bitten and becoming zombies themselves.
Writer-director Edgar Wright and his co-writer (and star of the film) Simon Pegg decide to take their time in the beginning of the film to establish the characters and their quirks, and this is an excellent strategy, because it sets up everything else that follows. When Simon's strategy is to set up camp at the Winchester, well of course it is, because we know that that's how he thinks. I laughed hysterically for nearly the entire length of the movie, especially so at the end when the fate of the zombies is revealed. It's the perfect ending to an excellent film.
March 28, 2005