Monday, December 12, 2005

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Simon Pegg Shaun of the Dead movie Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


BIG THUMBS UP!

BIG THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!

For some horror fans, satirizing the zombie genre (and let's face it, zombie films are practically a genre unto themselves) could seem like sacrilege. With the serious films that have come before - 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, and, of course, Night of the Living Dead - SHAUN OF THE DEAD leads us down a path few have dared tread (Evil Dead fans should check out this film to see how a REAL spoof is pulled off). Leave it to the British to give us some gritty dialogue and bloody comedy all rolled into one. I, for one, say "thank you."

So what's this film all about ...

Shaun (Simon Pegg) leads a dull and mundane lifestyle; he works at an electronics store as a salesman, lives with a flatulently impaired and obese roommate named Ed (Nick Frost) and a second roommate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), who can't stand Ed. Shaun also has a girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), who is suffering with him over his complete lack of motivation to accomplish anything in his life. And she's right. Shaun doesn't seem to notice the zombie-esque lifestyle he leads, the terrible routine of drinking at `The Winchester' pub (named after the rifle that gleams over the bar), the protecting of Ed's horrific behavior (ripping farts and calling women the "C" word while never maintaining a job of any kind), and, of course, his forgetfulness that she, Liz, is actually a part of his life. So naturally she calls off their relationship, causing Shaun and Ed to go on a drinking spree and video game holiday. And when they awaken from the alcoholic stupor, some things have changed. Only Shaun and Ed don't notice right away. They're so used to life being slow, boring, and ...er ...well, shuffling, that they don't take notice of the cars burning on the street, blood on the grocery store floor, or the vacant gaze of their neighbors. This is where the comedy really starts to take wing for the film.

When a "true" zombie wanders into their backyard, Shaun and Ed just think she's drunk. But they quickly discover that this ...thing ...can't be killed. And she is soon joined by another, much larger zombie. Shaun and Ed have entered the apocalypse. But what do you use to defend yourself in a country (let's remember, we're in England here) where guns are not readily available? Initially, they throw everything they can find at these shuffling monstrosities, but nothing seems to work (even Shaun's old record collection, which is hilariously pulled off as they try to decide which records to throw at the undead and which to save: "Stone Roses?" "No!" "Second Coming?" "I liked it." "Dire Straits?" "Chuck it."). Shaun finally picks up a cricket paddle and uses it to bash in the brains of the undead, thus ending their life-after-life existence.

A race to save everyone that Shaun loves soon ensues, and this includes his roommates, Ed and Pete, his girlfriend, Liz, and his mom and stepdad. But where to hide out until this has "blown over". Ah! Of course! The Winchester pub!

What follows is truly hysterical. Shaun must deal with the fact that Pete, his other roommate, has been bitten by a zombie. He also soon discovers that his stepfather (who he never really cared for anyway) was bitten, too. "All right, dude! We can drive his Jaguar!" Ed exclaims happily.

Once all of Shaun's loved one's have been gathered together, they have to make their way to the pub; but first they have to pass through a shuffling maze of zombies. They do this through some wonderful trial and error (from bashing in the head of every zombie in sight with the cricket paddle, to shuffling and moaning like zombies to fake them out. I mean, they're zombies for cryin' out loud! They ain't that smart.). Is the pub the place to go? Can Shaun, who's life has been pretty much meaningless up to this point, actually give meaning to it by saving all those whom he cares for?

The thing that helps this film stand out above other spoofs is that it doesn't dismiss the zombie-genre, but instead respects it and utilizes it to great comedic advantage. It's not slapstick, nor bathroom humor (although there is a touch of this thanks to Ed's bowels), but a set of coarse narratives and script that pulls the viewer into these characters lives and forces us to live with them. Most of us have seen, or have family members who are, in some way, these stereotypical losers. You can't help but cheer them on and hope that they survive their own failings. And that's where SHAUN OF THE DEAD gives you the emotional umpf! that you need to enjoy the movie. You care about them and laugh at their ridiculous inadequacies, both at the same time.

This is truly a great film. A+ ...especially for creativity.

Click here for the Shaun Of The Dead movie trailer!

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