Shaun Of The Dead

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis, Penelope Wilton

Director: Edgar Wright

As with most things in the movie world, a genre is exploited to the point where it finds itself dead in the water. Horror has reached that stage. No matter how much time is spent on make-up and gore, the one thing that moviegoers want is a movie that draws them in to the characters and their plight. If they don’t feel any sympathy for the characters then the movie has failed.

Recently, we have been exposed to the in-joke comedy take of the horror genre with the SCREAM and SCARY MOVIE trilogies, to cite two examples. While SCARY MOVIE relies on slapstick AIRPLANE style humour, SCREAM was no more than a smart-alecky nod and a wink to the audience, which at times went over people’s heads. Let’s go back a full decade before SCREAM first appeared, to a little known director, Sam Raimi, who was embarking on a sequel / remake of his notorious debut, THE EVIL DEAD. EVIL DEAD 2 turned Bruce Campbell’s character Ash into a reluctant anti-hero who battled unknown evil forces that threatened his survival to the point of self-mutilation, paranoia and madness. While all this does not sound the least bit funny, Campbell’s performance and Raimi’s direction turned EVIL DEAD 2 into one of the funniest horror comedies ever.

Simon Pegg has been on the comedy scene for close to ten years, appearing in sketch shows such as BIG TRAIN. It was not until he co-scripted the hilariously off the wall Channel 4 TV comedy SPACED that he made a name for himself. While Steve Coogan has been hailed as the next best thing in comedy, Simon Pegg has quietly been creating a movie script that includes one of the genres he loves, horror, and homage to George Romero’s DEAD trilogy.

Shaun (Simon Pegg), a slacker who goes about his day in a job that is not going to get him anywhere, shares a house with Ed (Nick Frost), a soft drug dealer who slobs around the house all day and the more career minded Pete, who wants to kick Ed out for obvious reasons. Shaun takes Liz (Kate Ashfield) his girlfriend out every night; unfortunately for her it’s down to the Winchester pub. Tired of the monotony of the relationship, she tells Shaun to make something of his life or its over between them. Shaun naturally fails to make the right impression and is dumped, finding Ed is there to console him. Meanwhile, a strange phenomenon is occurring where people around them start turning into zombies. Typically, our two heroes fail to notice what is happening around them until it’s too late. Shaun comes up with a brilliant plan to save his mother, stepfather and Liz and take them to the safest place he can think off. I’m going to let you guess where that might be.

This is more of a comedy about people than it is of the situation itself. Thanks to a sharp observational script from Pegg and Edgar Wright, who also directed, we are made to wonder from the outset whether zombies do not already surround us, as our normal everyday activities are so mundane, we just shuffle along just like the un-dead. There is a stronger connection with this bunch of characters than those portrayed in a Richard Curtis movie. The humour and banter is natural and fresh and even when the situation gets out of hand, there is a familiar message expressed here which we can all relate to and that is the will to survive. Survival is essentially the heart of the movie, whether it’s winning your girlfriend back or throwing vinyl records at a couple of approaching zombies, it is survival to go about your day to do what you like. This movie might not win awards but the fact that it had me laughing out loud from start to finish, is enough for me to give it the rating that I have given.

6 out of 6 stars