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Shaun Of The Dead

 article about Shaun Of The Dead
Things were looking bad for British cinema. You can only go so far with
movies starring Hugh Grant (Four Weddings, Notting Hill) and movies
about the most unlikely of people taking their clothes off (The Full
Monty, Calendar Girls). There was a recent attempt to try something
different called Sex Lives Of The Potato Men that was so bad the
British government will probably have it suppressed under the Official
Secrets Act.

But just as everything looked lost (one national
newspaper suggested the only dilemma facing us was whether to put the
gun barrel to our heads or in our mouths) along comes this little low
budget gem to prove that the British film isnt dead yet. In fact its
undead.

Despite the title Shaun Of The Dead is not a straight
spoof of the zombie genre, it's more a comedy that happens to have
zombies in it. The Shaun of the title, played by Simon Pegg, is your
typical disillusioned, directionless man in his late twenties whose
lifestyle of too much Playstation and not enough ambition results in
girlfriend Liz leaving him.

The sudden and unexplained
outbreak of zombies is just what Shaun needs, giving him the chance to
prove himself by rescuing his former girlfriend from the shuffling
menace.

Given the low budget, the zombies, special effects
and make up are admirable enough, but what makes Shaun Of The Dead such
a delight is the humour. One misplaced sentimental five minutes aside,
there is a beautifully absurd and curiously British absurdism running
all the way through.

The initial and best jokes revolve
around Shaun failing to notice the zombie epidemic. In a nicely judged
bit of cultural criticism, he staggers to his local shop and back with
a hangover, bidding a half-hearted good morning to several of the
undead.

The pitch-perfect humour also comes from a string of
cultural references, matters of taste retaining their importance even
in a life or death situation. When our heroes learn the zombies can be
decapitated with a flying vinyl LP, theres a frantic search through
Shauns record collection for something he can bear to throw. He
absolutely refuses to allow The Stone Roses: Second Coming to be used
as a weapon, choosing to part with the Batman Original Soundtrack and a
Dire Straits album instead.

The gags keep coming, freeing
you from any worries about the plausibility of the plot. It captures a
sense of humour thats mostly to be found in British sit-coms but rarely
makes a successful transfer to the big-screen, and while Shaun Of The
Dead has its roots in cult sit-com Spaced (same star, director and
writers, and apparently the majority of the zombie extras were
recruited through the Spaced fan club) it manages to transcend its
origins through sheer good nature.

Its not all perfect, as
mentioned above there are one or two serious scenes that feel horribly
out of place. But Shaun Of The Dead is good news for the British film
industry for many reasons, not least of which is its originality. Its
not another London gangster movie (some people are still riding the
Lock, Stock bandwagon) Hugh Grant doesnt feature at any point, and no
one decides to take his or her clothes off.

Importantly, it
all takes place in Crouch End, London, capturing a section of England
that isnt often celebrated on celluloid. Its somewhere between the
downtrodden of Mike Leigh and the upper-middle class of Richard Curtis,
and proudly displays this section of societies irony-laden sense of
humour. Its that age bracket of mid to late twenties where you rent
because you cant afford to buy, have a job but dont really like it,
wonder when your life is going to get started and why everythings so
depressing, and its odd that British films have previously failed to
address this sizeable audience.

Its not impossible the
British film industry will realise that when you dont have a Hollywood
budget, what you need is a slightly left-field original idea and a
witty script. More likely is that they will attempt to cash in on this
films success and will slavishly churn out a few carbon-copy
monster-comedy films over the next two or three years, until something
else takes them by surprise and they can do the same to that.


But rather than mourning their zombie-like behaviour, Id prefer to
celebrate the success of this little film, a bizarre gamble of an idea
that should never really have worked which might just breathe some life
into British films.







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