Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Shaun of the Dead - review

Contains some mild spoilers.

I'd watched this film back when it first came out nearly 10 years ago now. I remembered it being a fantastic satirical affair with some genuinely memorable iconic scenes. If you read any top zombie film list or blog this will be pretty close to the top but unlike many of the films listed on WTD Shaun of the Dead has the remarkable label of being close to the top on many mainstream film lists. More on this later.

Directed and co-written by Edgar Wright (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) Shaun of the Dead was the first of what became dubbed the  'Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy'  by Simon Pegg who also co-wrote and starred as Shaun. Shaun of the Dead is the only zombie film of the trilogy,  the others are a buddy cop film called Hot Fuzz and the third in production is a buddy/alien film called The World's End due out in 2014.

As with many other zombie films throughout Shaun of the Dead there is a biting commentary on  the collective modern ennui.  Shambling his way to the off licence with a hangover after another late night at their local pub 'The Winchester'  the opening pre-apocalyptic scenes portray Shaun stuck in the proverbial rut. A retail electrical salesman in his late twenties (or perhaps thirties?) standing in for his boss's boss, a nod to how his career has gone nowhere,  with a disenchanted girlfriend, a best-friend-cum-non-paying-lodger,  played by Pegg's close friend Nick Frost, Shaun shambles his way across to buy cigarettes and coke before going through the motions of his usual day.  He deals with the relentless struggle of lethargy caused from the mundanity of his everyday life in the face of pressure from other flat mate Pete (Peter Serfinowicz), girl friend Liz (Kate Ashfield), girlfriend's flatmates (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davies) and father-in-law Phillip (Bill Nighy) all nagging him to 'sort his fucking life out'.

A theme throughout is contrasting  what are considered Shaun's issues of the day, remembering to book a restaurant for his girlfriend and get some flowers for his mum (both of which he fails at) against the larger issue of total societal collapse.  Emphasising and belittling these 'first world' problems leads Wright and Pegg to film some of the Shaun of the Dead's most memorable and thought provoking scenes, a montage which sees a foreground focus on Shaun focused on the tasks in hand and his day to day routine ignorant to some quite frankly hilarious background scenes where the world is falling apart. Having lived in London briefly I could also chuckle at how perfectly they capture the narrow field of view one adopts when living in a metropolis so as to filter out the sheer variety of batshit shenanigans one is exposed to on a daily basis. This idea is then perfectly realised the following hang-over induced bleary Sunday morning when Shaun staggers back to the off-license oblivious to the by now quite obvious background apocalypse.

Shaun of the Dead is also a buddy movie. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have carried over their perfect onscreen chemistry from not only working together on Spaced but from living with each other in a way not unlike Shaun and Ed. The subtlety and ease in which they pull off perfectly timed blokey-banter is obviously helped from having a great off screen friendship, evidence of which can be seen when viewing the many extras documentaries on the disc. This ensures the viewer sees an authentic and believable relationship throughout.

The comedy throughout is very much 'British' humour and is full of absurdity and wit, from arguing about which LP is okay to throw at an approaching zombie to relief at finding out that they only have to kill Shaun's Father-in-Law and not his mum. Wright ensures that even with gore and blood the viewer never loses the smile on their face. The script constantly plays fan service to the genre as Wright and Pegg's writing perfectly grasps what makes zombie flicks both tense and compelling and in their very nature absurd; and in Shaun of the Dead certainly places emphasis on the latter. Citing Romero's Dead films, Army of Darkness, John Carpenter and films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers Wright and Pegg always strived to make a film that would stand up alongside such influential titles as well as being a comedy, and not a parody that poked fun at a genre they both respected. This they accomplished.

As for the release. The Blu-Ray presentation is faultless and it looks and sounds fantastic. The single disc is packed with extras from an insightful and funny commentary by Pegg and Wright, plenty of deleted scenes and out-takes, and a variety of documentaries including a good video diary from friend of the cast Joe Cornish who came along to play a zombie extra for the day.

Shaun of the Dead is a not only a great zombie film but it's a great any-genre movie. It's a cutting social commentary on modern malaise, a traditional zombie film with guts and exploding heads  but foremost a feel good film about Shaun and his relationship with family and friends. 

Fuck-a-doodle-doo,  a modern masterpiece and a worthy 10/10.


1 comment:

  1. jervaise brooke hamster27 September 2013 at 05:09

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