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Review: Shaun of the Dead

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Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Grade: A-
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Written By: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg Kate Ashfield Nick Frost Lucy Davis Bill Nighy
Studio: Rogue Pictures

It’s exceedingly hard to create a movie (or any other work of fiction) that both lampoons a particular style or genre but also manages to be a great example of it at the same time; Shaun of the Dead manages to pull it off. It also manages to pull off some body parts from its cast in the process.

The makers of Shaun of the Dead bill the flick as a zom-rom-com–a romantic comedy with zombies. That’s both fair and a little misleading. Don’t go into this flick thinking you’re going to get When Harry Ate Sally… or You’ve Got Entrails; the romance part’s pretty light. What’s heavy are the laughs and the blood.

Simon Pegg‘s Shaun perfectly personifies those people most of us in our thirties think of as “slackers” when they’re in their early twenties but haven’t yet broken out of that low-rent lifestyle by the time they hit their thirties; at this point, we begin to call them “losers.” Shaun works at a job he doesn’t much like where he doesn’t get much respect; his girlfriend wants more of him than he’s willing or able to give, even though she really doesn’t want all that much from him; his best friend has earned squatter’s rights on his couch, where he does nothing but play video games, drink beer and sell pot. Shaun is a zombie, though not of the brain-eating variety; he’s sleepwalking through his life in the slow shuffle of the undead.

At some point most of us get the kick in the pants we need to get our life in order, though, and Shaun is no different. It just so happens that what he needs to inspire him to find the strength to take control of his is a zombie rampage.

Surprisingly, in the midst of the jokes (well, “jokes” might be the wrong way to put it–this is British humor through and through, so the humor tends to be more situational) and viscera some real emotion comes through. No zombie movie would be complete without the main characters having to make tough choices about friends and family, and Shaun of the Dead is no exception. Screenwriters Pegg and Edgar Wright (who also directed) don’t make things easy on Shaun simply because the movie’s a comedy.

And that brings me back to the particular brilliance of this movie: the ability to make fun of the cliches of the zombie movie and adhere to them at the same time. Several times, for instance, Shaun or one of the other characters makes fun of the fact that the zombies move so slowly–yet that doesn’t make them any less threatening in large numbers.

Bloody good fun.

Written by Allen

March 7th, 2005 at 4:51 pm

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