Shaun of the Dead (2004)
With this review, I have decided to start a new style of review. Though I will still be doing long reviews, I am going to be doing this as a mini-review. Anyway, I absolutely adore Shaun of the Dead, arguably the greatest horror-comedy since Scream and my current favourite zombie movie. It is a wildly entertaining masterpiece of a film that has awesome zombies and kick-ass action, but it also has memorable and fleshed-out (no pun intended) characters played by great actors to back it up. This is my second taste of the Pegg/Wright/Frost combo, and it is a winning combo for sure, making me want to see Hot Fuzz all the more.
Shaun of the Dead is often described as a "rom-zom-com", that is, a romantic comedy that happens to take place during a zombie apocalypse. The film is centred around the titular Shaun (Simon Pegg), a deadbeat who lives with his equally deadbeat friend Ed (Nick Frost). After plans for a date with his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) go south due to his incompetence, he is dumped, which merely adds to the shitty things in his life. He has a crappy job, a crappy relationship with his stepdad, and he's treated crappily by pretty much everyone he meets. Shaun was entirely asking for it, as he happens to be an incompetent dolt at the start of the movie. The only person that seems to be nice to him is Ed, who's still a total douchebag and inadvertently keeps screwing things up.
Things have only started though, because Shaun and Ed are attacked by a girl in their garden who they think is drunk, but turns out to be dangerous and only stops her attack when Shaun hits her in the head with a cricket bat. Shaun also walks through his normal morning routine too hungover and oblivous to realize he is in a zombie apocalypse. Ed and Shaun first deny that anything is going on ("Don't use the Z word"), but after hearing the news, they wise up to the fact that something is wrong and make their plan. They are to go and get Shaun's mother (who has told him that his stepfather was bitten and feeling a little 'under the weather'), take care of Philip (the stepdad) and then go to Liz's apartment and make sure she is okay.
The rest of the film is a survival story, where Shaun, Liz, Ed, Liz's annoying roommates David and Dianne, and Shaun's mother and stepfather. The entire second half is them at the Winchester (Ed and Shaun's favourite pub which Liz grew tired of after being taken their night after night) fighting the encroaching zombies. This half of the film gets more serious, whereas the first half was more comedic in satirizing zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Shit starts going down and that's pretty much all I can tell you without my words being rife with spoilers, so the plot summation will stop here. Being honest, the film is not so much about story so much as characters, and these are characters we grow to like over the course of the movie.
The first of these characters is Shaun, played by Simon Pegg. He starts out as an incompetent fool but grows to become more competent as the movie goes on, eventually turning into the only competent person in the survival team. I shouldn't say that, Liz is extremely competent as well, but it is Shaun that is the most sympathetic and likeable character. He goes through so much that we can't help but feel sorry for him, especially near the end, when the film looks bleakest. He feels his failure to fortify the pub is just another one of the failures in his life, and this is one failure too many, as Shaun faces the ultimate despair. This leads to a truly excellent performance from Simon Pegg both during the comedic and dramatic parts of the film. I had only seen him in a few comedic roles before this and I never knew how brilliant an actor he was until now. By far his best performance.
The rest of the cast rounds out brilliantly. First, there is Nick Frost as Shaun's deadbeat roommate Ed. He seems to always play second fiddle to Pegg and one day he should definitely play first fiddle, because he is an extremmely talented comic actor as well. Pegg may give the best performance, but Frost certainly comes close, making Ed just as memorable and sympathetic as Shaun, despite the fact that Ed keeps screwing things up. Kate Ashfield is good as Liz, the only other sane character in the film, and she and Pegg (as well as Pegg and Frost as always) work very well off of eachother. The rest of the cast includes Penelope Wilton as Barbara (Shaun's mother), Bill Nighy as Philip, Lucy Davis as Dianne (one of Liz's roommates) and Dylan Moran as David (her other roommate). Dylan Moran deserves special attention because he plays David as such an asshole that (SPOILERS) when he gets ripped apart limb from limb and disemboweled through the same window he broke when there was a back door to get into the pub (END OF SPOILERS) I actually cheered because I was wishing for his eventual fate. Moran played him very well though, especially during the mexican standoff scene with the rifle and several broken beer bottles.
The script, written by Wright and Pegg, is absolutely brilliant in both the fields of comedy and drama, and especially in the field of character writing (as I had priorly mentioned). It is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Some of the particularly hilarious scenes include Ed and Shaun throwing records at the zombies while bickering on which ones to keep and which to throw, Shaun and the gang running into near-exact doppelgangers of themselves (except with a woman as the leader), and Shaun and Liz beating up zombies with pool cues while Queen plays in the background. There are a lot of funny lines as well, and the film is as entertaining as it is well-written and occasionally horrifying.
All in all, Shaun of the Dead is a total masterpiece in the fields of both horror and comedy, as well as in the field of character writing. The characters are memorable, the zombies are cool, the gore effects are amazing, the actors are brilliant, and the movie is just straight-up awesome in general. Another thing I loved about it was the ending. I won't tell you what it is, but it's likely one of my favourite endings to any comedy. I highly recommend it to fans of zombie films, as well as fans of the Pegg, Frost, and Wright combo. This now reigns as my favourite zombie film as well as my second favourite horror movie (Scream just barely inching it out) and is definitely in my top 20 favourite films of all time. I thought I would like this, but I didn't think I'd like it this much, and I just can't run out of excellent things to say about it. So in short, see it. Plain and simple.
|This prat deserved his fate for being a whiny little know-it-all and a complainer at every turn. May that fact be shouted from the rooftops|