Screen Reviews
Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

directed by Edgar Wright

starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield

Focus Features

[[Shaun Dead 1]] For those who’ve either lost conviction in the potency of the zombie film or are content in showing the same respect to this great genre as they would Corey Haim’s resume, British export Shaun of the Dead is without a doubt one of the most entertaining elixirs for your living dead indulgence. Many who don’t consider themselves aficionados of the re-animated could argue that there is a similar premise to every film, and there is a semblance of truth there. What they aren’t keyed into is the numerous permutations of zombies in film that have arisen (puns abound: reader discretion advised) over the years since George Romero’s timeless Night of the Living Dead in 1968.

From the consumerist satire of Romero’s sequel Dawn of the Dead to Fulci’s ominous Zombie to the bloody punk-rock glee of Dan O’ Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead, this field has evoked enough diversity without ever disowning its lineage. Billed as a “romantic tale with zombies,” Shaun of the Dead arrives on the cusp of yet another rebirth for the dead films, following the worthy remake of Dawn and Danny Boyle’s digitally shot London plague in 28 Days Later. But instead of trying to re-invent the wheel (which in a way, it successfully does), director/co-writer Edgar Wright and star/co-writer Simon Pegg pay unflinching homage to its past, present and set a hysterical, frenetic precedent for its future.

Horror references (which are quite noticeable to the enthusiast) are unabashedly numerous and cleverly positioned throughout the film, which features Pegg as hapless slacker Shaun, a near-thirty bloke with a dead end retail job, a girlfriend who’s grown tired of his act, a mum he barely sees and a slothful, yet lovable sidekick named Ed. While growing weary of his job and having just been dumped, Sean relies on Ed and their favorite haunt, the Winchester Pub as a means for distraction and recreation, both impervious to the fact that their town is quickly succumbing to a toxic-bourne epidemic.

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It’s only when the outbreak hits fever pitch, when they casually peer from their window and notice a young girl huddled in their yard (which precedes their first unconventional battle), do these clueless heroes take notice of their impending doom. Romero’s tale represents the atmosphere here, but Wright and Pegg have penned a relentlessly laugh-out-loud script that revels in its parody of stereotypical Brit humor, witty pop culture odes and the utter obliviousness of its main characters.

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Soon joined by his now ex-girlfriend, their friends who are another couple and his mum, Shaun along with Ed must fend off the growing horde of neighborhood corpses with a cavalcade of improvised weapons and ideas in what becomes an over-the-top, sometimes absurd yet always comical battle for survival; one can almost deduce where the final gory melee will take place. Even in its somewhat ludicrous ending, the cheese factor is kept to a nice minimum. Shot in almost a Guy Ritchie-kinetic style of film, with a script to match the picture’s pace, Shaun of the Dead rarely ceases in entertaining the audience. Fully at ease with its status as a love letter to horror (if its title is any indication already), Shaun somehow naturally evolves the genre without ever taking its guidelines (aiming for the head, etc.) for granted. Forget Resident Evil or House of the Dead, which rely too heavily on their video game foundations, and in turn, are the film equivalent of a turd. Shaun of the Dead, as with Rupert Everett’s 1995 comedic bloodbath Della Morte Della More, is a non-stop, old-school tale given a wonderfully bruised, bloody and salivating facelift.

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