Monday, February 07, 2005

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead
Directed by Edgar Wright
2004, rated R
3 stars

Of all the many horror film subjects, zombies are arguably the most popular. These resurrected, flesh-eating, stiff-limbed, groaning fiends who stalk the earth in search of living bodies to devour are constantly captivating viewing audiences, and haunting the dreams of the more impressionable. Zombie films range from the deadly serious and scary, such as Dawn of the Dead, to classics such as Night of the Living Dead, to series films like Zombie 1, 2, 3, and 4. Some series regarding the walking dead begin seriously, but quickly degenerate into ridiculous parody. Such was the case with the Evil Dead trilogy, a cult classic loved for its outlandish last installation. These parodies are the inspiration for other parodies, the latest of these hailing from the UK. Shaun of the Dead, directed by Edgar Wright, and obviously playing off the similarly-titled Dawn of the Dead, is a completely hilarious zombie parody, replete with dry British humor and flesh-eating fests.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an embodiment of the term “loser.” With a dead-end job, pathetic social life, and no ambition, the only thing that keeps him going is his long-term girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Slightly more pathetic than Shaun is his roommate Ed (Nick Frost), who spends all day playing video games and trailing after Shaun—usually to the local pub. As Shaun flounders through his daily routine of monotony, he begins to notice strange things. Firstly, Liz breaks up with him, having decided that she’s wasted enough time being attached to such a loser. Then, Shaun notices that the people around him are acting rather strangely, but as he is too lost in his own world of self pity over Liz, he doesn’t waste too much time on this. The next morning, however, Shaun and Ed awaken to find that the people around them have turned into ravenous, cannibalistic automatons, who can only be stopped by a whack to the head. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to get his girlfriend back, Shaun takes control, and formulates a plan for survival. Armed with a cricket bat and a shovel, Shaun and Ed head bravely into the mass of moaning dead.

Pegg, Frost, and Ashfield make the best of their roles. Armed with the knowledge that their characters and acting will win them no awards, they still forge onward, forming each character into an obvious hyperbole of reality. Each character is amusing in itself, and perhaps the most unexpected is that of Shaun’s “evil” stepfather Philip, played by the excellent Bill Nighy (Love Actually, I Capture the Castle, Underworld), so sardonically derisive, it’s hard to tell if he is a zombie or not.

What really makes this film hilarious, however, is its soundtrack. Each song is humorously placed, with lyrics fitted to each scene. This, along with the utter absurdity of the film itself, makes for a completely amusing flick.

Obviously not the most sophisticated of films, Shaun of the Dead gets its charm from the dry—but completely unsubtle—humor which is spattered throughout the film. Everything from the soundtrack to the random, yet amusing, one-liners form the timbre of each scene. The film obviously does not take itself too seriously, and doesn’t intend for the audience to either. This is not the greatest of films by a long shot, and unless you happen to be the type of person who enjoys this kind of mindless entertainment, you might want to skip this one. On the other hand, if you’re worried about being attacked by zombies, this movie could offer some helpful hints.