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Shaun of the Dead
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It is only natural to be scared of zombies, and to prevent them from laying waste to your home. A more relaxing approach, however, is to be bored and vaguely annoyed by them, or, better still, not to notice them in the first place. This is the premise of Edgar Wright's British comedy, which may be responsible for kicking off a new and specialized genre of slacker horror. Shaun (Simon Pegg) lives a supremely uneventful life, which revolves around his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield), his mother (Penelope Wilton), and, above all, his local pub. This gentle routine is threatened when the dead return to life and make strenuous attempts to snack on ordinary Londoners. The finale, in which the pub turns into an Alamo, is the bloodiest, most orthodox, and least witty part of the movie; far sharper are the early scenes in which Shaun wanders happily to the local store along a battered, zombie-dotted street and pulps his attackers with a cricket bat. The central joke is so snappy and well sustained that you barely catch sight of the ominous vision on offer: a country that already feels like death. -Anthony Lane
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
British horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead is a scream in all senses of the word. Brain-hungry zombies shamble through the streets of London, but all unambitious electronics salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) cares about is his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who just dumped him. With the help of his slacker roommate Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun fights his way across town to rescue Liz, but the petty concerns of life keep getting in the way: When they're trying to use vinyl records to decapitate a pair of zombies, Shaun and Ed bicker about which bands deserve preservation--New Order they keep, but Sade becomes a lethal frisbee. Many zombie movies are comedies by accident, but Shaun of the Dead is deliberately and brilliantly funny, while still delivering a few delicious jolts of fear. Also featuring the stealthy comic presence of Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and some familar faces from The Office. --Bret Fetzer
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That is this movie. Shaun, a man who does not realize he is a failure is forced to face that fact after his girlfriend dumps him because he is not doing anything with his life. The zombies are the factor that kicks him in the butt and forces him to become the Hero that nobody wanted him to be.
It is a movie about choices. It is a movie about not listening to your girlfriend. I mean, really, why does he have to cure cancer or save the planet from zombies? Can't a person be happy just with three meals a day, a roof over the head, and some extra time and money to spend on themselves? Why must we all become a Hero? A General? A President? What's wrong with enjoying life? What's wrong with staying in on the weekend and watching a movie or playing on the game station or having some root beer and pizza instead of going out? Shaun wasn't a bad guy - he loved his girlfriend, tried to get along with his friends and, to my knowledge, didn't drown kittens.
Think about what you ask for, it may come true. Well, in this case what the girlfriend asks for. Great movie and teaches us a lesson about enjoying what we have and not trying to wish for change. Change just hurts you in the end. Don't trust it.
Shaun (Pegg) has problems...he works a dead end job in a chintzy appliance store (his teenage co-workers consider him the `old timer' being all of 29), he doesn't get along with his step dad Phillip (Nighy), which has strained his relationship with his mother (Wilton), his girlfriend Liz (Ashfield) is in the process of dumping him because she wants more out of their relationship, and his flat mate Pete is on his case about Shaun's friend Ed (Frost), who lives with them but contributes very little...you know the type, a big, greasy bohunk type who stays over one night, and then ends up moving in, sleeping on the couch, doesn't pay rent, drinks milk from the carton, and spends his days playing video games and his nights at the local pub. Shaun's life is a mess, and it's about to get a whole lot messier, as it seems an American satellite has crashed somewhere in the south of England, resulting in the dead coming back to life, feasting on the flesh of the living, which then creates more of the same...at first Shaun doesn't notice the not so subtle changes of those on the street, until one of the dead wanders into the garden of his flat (at first, Shaun and Ed think the woman is hammered). As the situation becomes clear, Shaun tries to hold it together, gathering his friends and family with the intent on barricading themselves in the local pub and waiting it out, but the dead are hungry, and if they don't get Shaun and his group, tensions from within surely will...
I had a lot of fun with this film, as any fan of the zombie films should, at least those who don't take things too seriously and can stand a movie that pokes a little fun at the genre. The comedy in the film isn't so much of the slapsticky kind (there is some) featured in the films I referenced at the beginning of my review, but more so a subtle kind that I found really appealing. While watching the movie one familiar with films that came before can't help but feel those responsible for this feature are true fans of the genre, and horror films in general, given the immense amount of references included, in terms of visuals, the script, and various other aspects of the production, all of which can be identified by activating a special Zomb-O-Meter subtitle track. I also really enjoyed the thoughtfulness in the structure of the movie, for example, near the beginning, before the influx of the zombies, we see Shaun walking to a nearby store, and there's a good amount of normal, street activity (a kid playing, a man washing his car, a homeless man begging for change, etc.). The next day, after Shaun got dumped by Liz and subsequently went out with Ed and tied one on, we see a slightly hung over Shaun, walking the same, exact route, except now things are very different. The streets are clear of people (except for a few presumably walking dead), strewn with trash and in disarray, yet Shaun, given his current state, does not take notice...very funny sequence. Another great bit was when Shaun and Ed finally realized what was going on, after an incident in the backyard and one of the dead actually entering the flat, because, as usual, someone forgot to lock the front door (this was persistent issue with Shaun's roommate Pete, who despised Ed). As the story progresses, Shaun seems to come to terms with his relationship issues, generally at the most inopportune moments, one of them being a very touching scene with his step father Phil in the back of a car, just prior to Phil `losing the battle'. Another great sequence in this regard was when Shaun and Ed had it out, in front of the pub, surrounded by hundreds of dead eyed spectators. I thought the performances all really good (both Pegg and Frost stood out for me), and the characters completely distinctive and interesting. The direction was excellent, as the use of various gimmicks done especially well, keeping me interested rather than distracting. As far as the zombies and special effects in general, I thought they were all done very well, resulting in excellent production values for a film of this type, this type being a relatively independent feature made on a relatively modest budget (this film cost a reportedly 4 million to make, while George Romero's 2005 Land of the Dead cost about 15 million). The zombie effects are decent enough, and there is one, particularly gut wrenching (literally) near the end which casual viewers might find hard to take. All in all I thought this an excellent film and a great effort put forth by the filmmakers, one which all fans of the genre should appreciate, but may have limited appeal to the casual viewer not familiar with all the `in' jokes and references (some were obscure, even to me).
The picture, presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), looks very sharp and clear, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio comes through very clean. As far as the special features, there are a good amount of them related to the film, of which I won't list as the Amazon website does this well enough, but not so much as to overwhelm...I love those releases where they interview everyone and anyone, despite their peripheral involvement in the making of the film (does anyone care what kind of snackies the caterer supplied during production?). Also included are some unrelated Universal previews that come up as the DVD is inserted into the player, but these can be bypassed through your remote. Used to be Universal gave you no choice in watching these things, but I guess they got enough complaints as to allow viewers to bypass them if they wish...
The HD presentation of the film on this disc is just as good as, if not better than the disc for Hot Fuzz. The surround is very active, with the zombies growls coming from every direction during key scenes. Like Hot Fuzz, this film is pretty much an aural and visual assault on the senses. The extras are the same ones you can find on the regular DVD release but they're entertaining at the least. I'd recommend this disc whole heartedly to comedy fans and horror fans alike.
We see the main character start out as a lumbering, brainless (quite zombie-like, in fact), average-guy oaf who forgets his girl's flowers, doesn't really dedicate himself to doing all the things a good boyfriend should do for his significant other. But, by the end of the movie, he's learned his lesson.
See? A great movie all around. What more could you want?
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