Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (2004) directed by Edgar Wright. Rewatch.
3.5 out of 4

I like this movie a lot, but can't give it the unadulterated love that the internet's horde of zombie fans do. It's quite imaginative and clever, especially in how it teases us and plays with expectations, but some of the characters we get locked up with are underdeveloped and drag the story down.
Let's start off with the good parts. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are terrific, very comfortable in the characters they built for the film, and always amusing when they are on screen. The film plays a lot of clever and subtle jokes on zombie fans, and the romantic comedy genre. This makes it rather unique, as the only other self-referential rom-com I can think of at the moment is The Baxter, which was above average and somewhat memorable, but nowhere near as entertaining as this film is.
The story begins with Shaun, his girlfriend Liz at their local pub, the Winchester. Liz and her friends are bored with hanging out there every night, while Shaun's slob friend Ed plays video games. Shaun and Ed are also roommates, and he's a terrible one. When he's not behaving like a methane-producing Xbox attachment, he's forgetting to tell Shaun when Liz calls, which leads to them breaking up. Now this romantic comedy plot is funny as it is, but all the while in the background the world is slowly falling apart. The best joke is that his neighbors aren't very different in zombie form, except for the flesh eating problem.
When Shaun and Ed finally realize what's happening, their reactions are quite believable and that's what makes it so funny. What are you going to do when there's a zombie in your yard? While chainsaws and shotguns make for great entertainment, not everyone has one or two under the bed. Once they find out that a good knock in the head takes care of the walking dead, they hatch a rather hasty plan to gather everyone Shaun cares about and hole up at the Winchester. So they go to rescue Liz and Shaun's mother; he hopes rather wistfully that his stepfather is a zombie so he can dispatch him.
The film manages to make the relationships sentimental and charming, comparable to a Judd Apatow comedy. The writers and director remember that it is important for us to care about the characters if there's going to be any tension over whether they become zombie chow, and there are a few somewhat emotional scenes as the horde descends upon our little friends. They manage to ratchet up the excitement and for a moment you forget this is a comedy, but they end it masterfully in a way that doesn't betray its mood.
The end, and how the world deals with the zombie menace, is entertaining enough to merit its own film. I'm told Fido is as close as we'll get to such a thing, and that movie would probably made a good double feature with this one. I enjoyed Hot Fuzz a lot more than this, but this deserves credit for bringing a refreshing twist on two genres that should never be mixed again.

On another note, this HD-DVD was defective and I sent it back to Amazon, the third bad one I've gotten from them. The other two were Planet Earth sets, which both had defective first discs. I didn't watch the extras but I will when the new one comes.

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