Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Genre: Romantic zombie comedy
Grade: Effing hilarious
When I looked ahead on the October calendar and saw that this last Friday would be the day before Halloween, I realized I needed some kind of horror film or monster film or, well you get the picture, to tie in with it. But since that genre isn’t something I normally watch and I wanted some romance in the film, I was a bit panicked. “What can I watch?” I muttered as I chewed a fingernail. A quick check of my Netflix queue and the day is saved. I’ll watch “Shaun of the Dead!” I said.
The plot is fairly simple. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29 year old appliance salesman who’s having problems with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) who is dissatisfied with their relationship, primarily because it revolves around going to “The Winchester,” Shaun’s favorite pub, every night. She wants something different, a nice dinner at a nice restaurant somewhere other than the pub. But Shaun screws even that up and tops it off by giving her flowers, complete with card, that he’d bought for his mother. She dumps him and Shaun and one of his flatmates, Ed (Nick Frost), head to the pub to drown Shaun’s sorrows.
The next day, something weird seems to be going on in the streets of London. At first they’re almost deserted, though Shaun barely notices anything different until he and Ed see a young woman in their small flat garden. They eventually realize she’s a zombie then retreat inside where the telly news announcer informs London that zombies are taking over the country and the only way to kill them is to remove their heads or destroy their brains. Armed with this knowledge and some weapons improvised from the garden shed, they dispatch her and another zombie. Worried about Shaun’s mother (Penelope Wilton), Liz and whether or not they’ll have to kill Phillip (Bill Nighy), Shaun’s stepfather who’s apparently been bitten by one of the undead, the two devise a plan to pick everyone up and drive to the Winchester where they think they’ll be safe.
But with the numbers of the undead flesh eating zombies growing, is there anywhere in London that’s safe?
As I said, I don’t watch horror films beyond the occasional “Hammer” film so a lot of the delicious homages to the film genre passed right over my head. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a fan to enjoy this film. Pegg and his co-writer Edgar Wright, who also directed the film, also include a number of other homages to British TV shows and video games. Again, if you catch these it’s great but you certainly don’t need to know all the references to have fun with the movie. I had a great time picking out various actors and trying to remember where I’d seen them (It’s “Dawn” from “The Office!”).
The gore is fairly low key and generally consists of face paint and off screen deaths until the final scenes at the Winchester. Here, with Shaun and the others using the namesake rifle from over the pub bar, things get bloodier. The death of one of their number who gets dragged outside by the zombies is fairly graphic but it’s over quickly. In the storyboard “Plot Holes,” which are part of the DVD extras, we learn that another person actually survives being hauled amongst the undead.
We never actually learn how the zombie apocalypse begins and the ending features a major deus ex machina, but the film is so funny and enjoyable that I don’t care. At times, such as when Shaun is battling his way to Liz’s flat, I was literally holding my sides laughing as I screamed, “It’s like whack-a-mole!” The scene in the Winchester when several of their hearty band bludgeon the zombie pub owner to the beat of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is hilarious.
Recently, DA has received offers of a number of zombie books for review and Jane mentioned that zombies seem to be the new vampires of UF. Hopefully they’re not like these zombies or I’d have to ask, as an aghast talk show host character does in the film, “You sleep with that?!” But if you’re looking for a great film for Halloween, do check this one out. I’m off to watch it for a second time now.
FTC discloser – I rented this from a movie rental service though I plan to buy my own copy.