Rated | Alphabetical
of the Dead
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, UK, 2004
Posted: September 28, 2004
Editor's Note: Regular readers of
Clemenza's Corner -- all eight of you -- know that Clemenza bows to no one
in his love for zombie films. (One could say that his reviews of such films have
a certain mindless zombie quality to them as well, but I digress.) Since
Shaun of the Dead isn't your average zombie movie, I thought it'd be fun to
see if he could switch gears and get "serious" while talking about a zombie
movie that switches gears to be funny. Also, I wanted to get him back for
continually swiping my secret stash of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Let us know
what you think of the results. –-
Kevin Forest Moreau, Resident Evil
“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “You got your peanut butter in my
chocolate!” Thus the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup was born, a collision of separate
ingredients melded together to yield a unique treat. Clemenza, you may be
asking, why do you bring this up? We already know that peanut butter cups are a
tasty delight. Well, you see, Shaun of the Dead is a lot like the genesis
of said snack. It combines two seemingly incongruous genre elements -- the
zombie flick and the comedy -- into one unique offering. (Yeah, yeah, it has
romantic elements, too, but let's focus on the two primary aspects, shall we?)
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an archetypical slacker. He spends most of his free time
partying with his rotund, über-slacker best friend and roommate Ed (Nick Frost),
when he's not trying to hold down a job as a television salesman at what I
presume to be the British equivalent of a Circuit City store. And of course, our
man Shaun is also trying to commit to a relationship with his girlfriend Liz
(Kate Ashfield). Sounds like he has his hands full, right? As Shaun's life
continues its inexorable unraveling, the world around him is crumbling --
literally. The film does an excellent job of portraying the slow death of
Shaun's social life against the backdrop of incremental societal decay as the
zombie plague begins. Shaun is so immersed in his own misfortunes that he's
totally unaware of the world around him, even going so far as to carry out his
morning routine of walking to the local convenience store to buy a drink and a
snack while zombies are gathering in the streets around him. Only when he and Ed
actually come to face with a zombie does the gravity of the situation reveal
itself to them.
Okay, enough of me retelling the whole freakin’ movie for ya! See it already!
I'm just here to tell you what the result of all this is. The directors are
smart enough not to rely on cheap, easy, Naked Gun-style gags. Some of
the film's best bits come from the personalities of the characters themselves.
Ed steals most of his scenes with a laid-back attitude that seems to calm the
most treacherous situations -- he even stops to answer his cell phone as
hundreds of zombies are closing in on him and his friends. Liz is an engaging
character, too, with lustrous blonde hair, nice, pouty lips, firm, proud
buttocks…and Oh God, I just wish I could…NO!!! Must…write…serious…review!
Er, that is...her relationship with Shaun against the zombie backdrop, is plenty
enough for the film.
There are so very few clever movies with decent senses of humor that it's hard
not to pull for this movie. You want Shaun to succeed, and early on, the
film carries its own weight. However, somewhere along the line, it actually
turns into a serious zombie film, filled with all of the tension and drama of
the original Night
of the Living Dead. As the script piles on additional baggage, such as
Shaun's parents and Liz's friends, and Ed, the film starts staggering under its
increasingly heavy load. As the group hunkers down at Shaun's favorite local
pub, The Winchester, the situation become claustrophobic, and the story begins
to lose its humor and take on a bit too much drama for its own good.
Having said that, does this ruin the film? I suppose not. Shaun of the Dead
certainly slows down and takes a few wrong turns, but all in all, the innovative
concept manages to overshadow its shortcomings. Could it have been more? Sure.
Couldn’t we all have been?
At the risk of sounding like an avant-garde, beret wearing pansy, (in other
words, Laurence Station) one could make the argument that the film spans the
genres of horror, action, comedy and romance, and by doing so gives the viewer
doses of traditional film elements in a non-traditional format. It may be that
Shaun of the Dead is cleverer than it will be given credit for (and trust
me, that's a dilemma I know all too well). It dares to be different and
entertaining, features that don't usually work, and for that reason, I am
willing to overlook some of its shortcomings. Sure, it could stand to lighten up
toward the end. But, like with a peanut butter cup, one should not spend too
much time pondering the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter. Just unwrap it and
eat it and be glad that it exists, and if it can temporarily lighten the load
you carry, then it has done its job. On that level, I'm glad to say, Shaun of
the Dead succeeds.
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