Shaun of the Dead
Simon Pegg .... Shaun
Kate Ashfield .... Liz
Nick Frost .... Ed
Lucy Davis .... Dianne
Dylan Moran .... David
Nicola Cunningham .... Mary
Penelope Wilton .... Barbara
Bill Nighy .... Philip
Right now, there are half a dozen people screaming at their screens: "This isn't direct- to-video - this was in theatres!" This is technically true. If you lived anywhere near a city that had over, say, one million people, or had a particularly active arts community, you might have caught Shaun of the Dead in theatres.
For the rest of us, the roughly eighty percent of the country who didn't manage to see Shaun of the Dead in the dozen theatres, the movie was shown nationwide. It's as direct-to-video as it's going to get.
So to borrow the parlance: Shut up, you wankers, and let's get it on!
What we have here is the story of Shaun, a pushing-thirtysomething whose life is going nowhere, and not very fast, either. He lives with old college buddies in a small house in the middle of London, works a truly awful job in electronics retail, is on the outs with his girlfriend, and is being horrifically dominated by his stepfather.
Of course, the whole thing changes after the zombies hit.
Shaun of the Dead is packed to the gills with fantastic homages, especially to its obvious namesake. Check out the opening sequence before even the title crawl. You'll hear music authentic to the Romero "Dead" saga. Shaun works for Foree Electric--Ken Foree was one of the original stars of Dawn of the Dead, and he even reappeared in the theatrical rerelease. The fish restaurant is "Fulci's," based on Lucio Fulci, one of George Romero's inevitable decendants. There's even a "We're coming to get you, Barbara" sequence at the thirty seven-minute mark.
Even better is the avant title sequence. None of the people you see here are vicious flesh eating ghouls, yet after a fashion, they're all zombies. They even groan authentically, but the only thing separating them from actual flesh eaters is their appetites.
The plot is far more interesting than you give it credit for. Romero's movies involved joining characters in the midst of Zombie Apocalypse, but Shaun of the Dead goes in a new and interesting direction. The movie actually begins just before the Zombie Apocalypse, allowing you an interesting look at how things progress when they only just start. Fewer and fewer people show up for work. The streets get strangely deserted. Bloody handprints appear randomly throughout town.
It's also very interesting to take a character like Shaun, who isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, and drop him into the midst of Zombie Apocalypse. He has no idea what has happened, and the zombies don't move fast enough to attack him. Thus, he can literally wander the streets, going about his normal non-workday activities and not even notice that something has gone wrong. This brilliant sequence at the thirty-minute mark changes that.
Shaun of the Dead also provides an excellent study in what not to do in the midst of Zombie Apocalypse. If you can't identify at least three major bungles, then you're not paying close enough attention.
The ending is a laugh riot, as zombies slowly become integrated into what's left of society following "Z-Day." Television details in strange and amusing ways show how the zombies are becoming part of things--notice as they push shopping carts, compete for prizes of raw meat on TV game shows, and are the subjects of a benefit rock concert and talk show fodder.
Check out also the brief stab at 28 Days Later.
The special features include Simon Pegg's video diary, casting film, a storyboard film sequence, special effects comparisons, featurettes on makeup, and a brief featurette on the plotline. Plus, we get a photo gallery, poster designs, an advertising campaign featurette, an original theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, extended scenes, an a featurette called "plot holes" in which some important questions are answered in comic book form. As if this weren't enough, we also get a series of little featurettes called "TV Bits." Truly, this is a film that didn't skimp in the least on special features.
All in all, Shaun of the Dead is, by turns, the funniest and most suspenseful horror comedy to be released in some time. A quality comedy and a killer zombie flick makes Shaun of the Dead a movie worth your time to find.
Steve's columns are now sponsored by Horrormovies.com (http://www.horrormovies.com/?ref=12). You can get a solid deal on Shaun of the Dead over there, and visiting my sponsor allows me to keep bringing you timely and solid data on the newest stuff on the video store shelves.