"Shaun of the Dead" Review
After the huge success of their TV Show Spaced, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg decided to take a shot at the big screen. Inspired by the episode "Art", in which the character of Pegg takes amphetamines and plays Resident Evil 2, Shaun of the Dead was born. And with it, the first installment of the acclaimed "Cornetto trilogy".
One of the greatest merits of this Wright gem is that although it includes many winks and cameos of British comedy (including, of course, the TV show Spaced itself), it doesn't marginalize the audience.
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an almost-30-year-old electronics salesman who lives his routine with a lethargy that at times seems like straight-up apathy and depression. He lives in a house with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost), who is unemployed and spends most of his time drinking and playing video games.
Shaun wastes his days between a hated job where nobody respects him and a local cheap pub called The Winchester.
People around Shaun point out that his life has no direction and that his friendship with Ed is proof of that. Certainly, Shaun is quite careless with his relationships. His stepfather Philip (Bill Nighy) reminds him almost hopelessly that he does not forget to bring flowers to his mother Barbara (Penelope Wilton) on her birthday.
His girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), tired of the routine and the lack of passion and love, decides to break up with him to avoid a boring life without ambition.
Wright begins by showing Shaun's life as similar to a zombie. His little routine is full of slow, lifeless humans that surround him. Shaun himself behaves like a zombie several times. His pace through the world is so slow and clumsy that when the outbreak starts to develop, Shaun is unable to catch the imminent signals in his surroundings.
He is so immersed in his depressive micro-world that he could calmly have lived in this new paradigm if the zombies weren't hostile.
And it is there, with the imminent danger, that Shaun begins to take control of his life.
Determined to save his loved ones, Shaun plans with Ed to rescue his girlfriend and his mother so they all can find a strong shelter and wait out the crisis. Cricket bat in hand, Shaun starts his odyssey.
Edgar Wright's direction is simply masterful and the main reason why this movie is an absolute classic. Shaun of the Dead is full of details and recurring jokes that work on different levels. Every rewatch offers something new.
Wright refuses to make a traditional transition between scenes, which gives an incredible kinetic power to the film. These are 99 minutes where each shot serves to move the story forward, offer a funny gag or build one. Wright's detailed control over the story is simply absolute and admirable.
Let's examine a couple of examples. In several scenes, Shaun is at the entrance of his girlfriend's building, hoping his destiny improves. Wright uses two walls to emulate the sensation of a television with a 4:3 aspect ratio that, after moving the camera forward, becomes the liberating rectangular cinematic aspect.
Not only is this a great visual trick for geek cinephiles, but a visual resource to show the two lives (one enclosed in a box and another much wider) in which the main character is bouncing his existence.
What's Your Rating For Shaun of the Dead?
In another scene, Shaun is just zapping the TV channels. He watches cartoons, sports, news, competitions shows, but doesn't commit to any channel. The interesting thing is that the audio of each channel perfectly forms several sentences, reporting on the zombie outbreak. Shaun, of course, doesn't catch the incredible coincidence, much less understands what happens on the street. It's both a gag and an element that drives the story forward.
In Shaun of the Dead, the zombies are slow and weak, Romero Style, because, as Pegg said in an interview, "Death is not an energy drink". But the real reason is not so much a tribute to Romero, but a clear symbolism about a life without passion, driven almost by inertia to which Shaun finally decides to survive.
Shaun of the Dead includes lots of zombie murders, all funny, silly and framed in a sweet spot between dark comedy and good-spirited tale.
In the end, Shaun gets the girl. Both live together, in what seems a quiet life that, although looks similar to the usual, has the huge difference of a Shaun that looks more confident and controlled. Shaun is navigating his life instead of being carried away by the current.
However, it would be a hypocrisy for Shaun of the Dead to finish his story on that serious note. Shaun, from time to time, escapes to his garden shed to play video games with a now-chained-zombie Ed. It's okay to keep friendships considered "immature."
Sometimes, it's okay to embrace the zombie within us.
Zombie Movie Details
Title: Shaun of the Dead
Release Year: 2004
Director(s): Edgar Wright
Writer(s): Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Actors: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards