Shaun of the Dead
2004Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost
think the time has finally come for America to concede the comedy throne to Great Britain, and for once that’s not just my tiresome anglophilia talking. The days of Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show and Curb your Enthusiasm are behind us now. With shows like The Office, Coupling and Ali G making transatlantic waves, the UK has stealthily broken the States’ laugh track-choked stranglehold on television. And now here comes Shaun of the Dead to overthrow America’s reign over the cinematic horror/comedy. Well, in the words of another famous zombie slayer; hail to the king, baby.
Shaun of the Dead opens with our hapless hero, Shaun, a retail worker, whose life has more or less reached a standstill. Every day he dons his nametag, sleepwalks through his McJob, and then high-tails it back to The Winchester, the local pub, for pints with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) and boorish best mate Ed (Nick Frost). Liz finally stages an intervention with the help of her two roommates David and Diane (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis of The Office) admitting that she’d like some quality time (outside of the Winchester) with Shaun, sans Ed and his Clyde the orangutan impressions. Shaun vows to book a romantic dinner for the two of them the following evening, but when he neglects to make good on the promise, an exasperated Liz cuts him loose and advises him to “sort his life out”.
See, vigilante justice isn't always bad...
Brokenhearted, Shaun does the only thing a man in his position can do. He heads to the Winchester with Ed and drowns his sorrows in a three-day bender. Blearily muddling through the aftermath, Shaun doesn’t even immediately notice that all of North London is overrun by a plague of cannibalistic zombies until one turns up in his garden and very nearly eats him.
Springing to action with an up until now uncharacteristic decisiveness, Shaun forms an heroic plan with Ed to find his estranged girlfriend, rescue her, and usher her to the relative safety of—where else?—The Winchester. More hilarity, terror and genuinely touching moments ensue than you can shake a cricket bat at.
Comparisons to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 are not only unavoidable, they seem downright invited. Check out the scene where Shaun, much to his chagrin, takes the management helm at the appliance store where he works. Listen very closely for the name of the absentee manager. That’s no accident, and judging from the knowing chuckles I heard scattered throughout the theater, I wasn’t the only one who got the joke. But more than this, Shaun of the Dead has everything else great in common with Evil Dead 2, not the least of which are the Everyman hero and its bounty of endlessly quotable one-liners. And like Evil Dead 2, this is a movie people will be watching (and adoring) for many years to come.
"Dude, I don't care if she's a zombie. She's hot, and I saw her first."
What really sets Shaun of the Dead apart, however, is that amongst all of the bloodshed and humor, it manages to have real heart. Lives and loves are lost, after all, and those losses don’t go unheeded. Never once plunging too deeply into pathos, though, you barely have any time to mourn someone’s passing before you’re laughing again. It’s a tough edge to walk, but somehow S.O.T.D. manages to swagger along that fine line brilliantly. Basically, this movie is so well done it’s unintentionally giving the finger to Scream and the like for 99 minutes straight.
I can’t find a single misstep in Shaun of the Dead. I’m one very satisfied movie geek right now. From beginning to end I was engaged, finding the characters lovable, the action exciting, the dialogue hilarious and the comic timing genius. And the last few frames are an impossible combination of sad and sweet and funny that I bet you won’t see coming. This is the kind of flick for which you assemble an army of friends, followed by drinks, so that nobody wastes any time being left out of all the great quotes that’ll be flying around. Oh, and bonus points to whoever manages to slip in that first oh-so-perfect quote when buying the first round! Great Saturday night movie right now, great Saturday “midnight movie” forever, Shaun of the Dead makes me feel like there’s some life left in the horror comedy genre yet.
By: Jen Cameron
Published on: 2004-10-05