Shaun of the Dead is fantastic. It’s a zombie film parody and it is very, very British. This movie is not for everyone, especially those adverse to zombie violence/gore and language. It can be quite gross.
Let me break it down. !!SPOILERS!!
It’s hard to separate the plot from the clever humor because they are both beautifully intertwined. The movie is as heart breaking at times as it is funny. The catharsis this movie provides would make the Greeks proud.
First, a quick plot summary.
The movie starts off as Shaun, played by Simon Pegg, is dumped by his girlfriend of six years, Liz, played by Kate Ashfield. This takes place on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. Shaun and his flatmate Ed, Nick Frost, create a plan to rescue Shaun’s mother and his ex Liz and take them somewhere safe while they wait for the “whole thing to blow over.”
The plot is quite literally foreshadowed by Ed when he explains his plan to help Shaun get over his breakup. “A Bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… back at the bar for shots.” At the time, Ed is talking about bars but as the plot plays out this turns out to not only be the path they take, but an apt description of the events that play out at each location.
The writing for the film is phenomenal.
In addition to the main plot points being foreshadowed there’s several other times when characters make off handed comments which actually come true.
Shaun of the Dead has a wonderful rewatch value because there’s so much to notice. Every time I rewatch it I am either discovering things that are new or remembering things I had forgotten.
The dialogue is witty and often the phrases being used have multiple meanings especially within the context of dramatic irony.
Very few actions, if any, are purposeless. Innocuous things, such as Shaun throwing away the flowers for his mother come back in to play at a later time. (She finds them and thinks they are for her… which they were.)
There are a number of different types of humor throughout the film. With all the foreshadowing and play on words there is of course a lot of dramatic irony, but there’s more.
Much of the dialogue is funny. People say things at inopportune times or in inopportune ways. Multiple instances where people have the same line several times in a row.
Edgar Wright does a great job creating humor visually. Repeated visual motions. Seemingly pointless motions. Shaun decides to climb a ladder to get a better view, a children’s slide ladder, which isn’t very tall at all. When Shaun and his gang cross paths with his old friend Yvonne she has a group of followers who are dressed nearly identically to those following Shaun and Liz.
There’s even a hint of social commentary in the first few minutes of the film as you see cashiers checking out groceries, men in queue for the bus, and people walking down the street, all looking like they are already undead.
Wright is famous for his tight quick edits. To show Shaun getting ready for work takes six zoom in shots in three seconds. You usually don’t have time to be bored during an Edgar Wright film.
Along these same lines, Wright creates a fantastic juxtaposition between various shots playing off the dialogue when appropriate or creating visual gags when the opportunity rises.
This film knows what you need to see and doesn’t bother showing you anything else. When Shaun climbs the children’s ladder the camera doesn’t follow him, rather his head is just out of frame for a few seconds, thus emphasising the ridiculousness of the action.
If I could only tell you one thing I loved about Wright’s films it would be the sound effects. Nearly every action is accompanied by a sound effect. Camera moves, cuts, all have sound effects to go with them but they all resemble natural sounds from the environment.
Little subtle details that make the world come alive.
Even if you aren’t big into horror films, this film might be worth a watch. That said, if you really don’t like the blood and gore Hot Fuzz might be a better flick to watch. Same director, same cast, and honestly I like it a little bit better.
Shaun of the Dead is, to some extent, a cult favorite. The cult following of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, who have now completed the parody trilogy: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and World’s End.
Yet I would say Shaun of the Dead is a very well packaged and very well thought out film and while it’s not necessarily for everyone, it does a lot of amazing things and it does them well. And when it comes to films, there isn’t much more you can ask for.