Shaun of the Dead is one of the first original motion pictures to come down the pike in quite some time. This movie is hard to pin down. At heart, it’s a story of Shaun (Simon Pegg), a miserable electronics store employee, who, in the midst of an invasion of zombies, becomes the most unlikely of heroes.
Beneath the solidly staged action scenes, especially considering the obvious shoestring budget, and excessively zombie gore, there are many different layers. This movie contains equal parts biting social commentary, hilarious gross out humor, engaging human drama, and action. To get an idea of where Shaun of the Dead is coming from, just think Dawn Of The Dead meets From Dusk Till Dawn meets Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
It’s interesting to view this film within the context of its release date. Zombie films, for whatever reason, seem to have become a popular product in Hollywood again. The Dawn of the Dead remake and Resident Evil: Apocalypse have both been released in the past six months. Shaun of the Dead is arguably the best of these three films. In addition to its goofy sense of humor, the movie also has real heart and a homemade human quality to it. It’s hard not to cheer for Shaun to get back together with his estranged girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) or to defeat the zombies along with his best mate Ed (Nick Frost).
It should also be said, however, that this movie is not for everyone. For a comedic horror film, the gore levels are very high. Also, there is the issue of the humor. Since this is an import, the humor is all very British. For those who don’t watch a lot of movies, it’s a little hard to explain what exactly separates their humor from American humor. There is a difference, and some American audiences just don’t find British comedies funny. Basically, the movie doesn’t feel a need to spell out the jokes for the audience. There is a lot of subtle humor that only a discerning viewer will pick out, including at least one hilarious reference to another recent zombie picture, 28 Days Later.
Of course, with British films there’s always the issue of accents as well. Those not willing to put in the effort to decipher the thick cockney slang will not get much out of the movie.
Those willing to bear with it, however, should find some rewards in Shaun of the Dead. Little about it is particularly mainstream, but it’s very original. In this age of a Hollywood full of sequels and remakes, isn’t that worthy of some praise in and of itself?
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.