SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Shaun (Simon Pegg) shares a flat with two friends from school, his best friend, the lay-about Ed (Nick Frost) and his second best friend Pete (Peter Serafincowicz) who don't like each other. He is a retail store clerk with nothing happening. His girlfriend of three years, Liz (Kate Ashfield), is sick of the no-hoper and one Friday night they finally break up. His mum (Penelope Wilton) hopes he'll remember her birthday and some flowers. But Saturday brings a new day ... Shaun doesn't notice at first, but the streets are deserted except for shuffling zombies, and the tv carries news flashes that warn of a general emergency. By the time Shaun and his friends realise what is happening - the recently dead are rising and eating any of the living they can get their teeth into - it's almost too late. Then his plan to save them all by retreating to The Winchester pub goes horribly wrong.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Comedy and horror are real life partners, of course, and who better to bring all this to life in a zombie movie than the Brits. That's the birthplace of people like John Cleese and his Monty Python team, of The Goons and Peter Sellers, to name a few. What unites these disparate characters and their work is a serious idea behind the comedy, which makes things edgy and recognisably real.
Shaun is a character the English do uniquely well: he's a slacker, a loser in our vernacular. He's therefore beautifully positioned to be the anti hero and everyman, the bloke without aspirations who is thrust into a bit of a jam: zombies running amok in his backyard.
The script's great strength is that it is absolutely character driven, with plenty of pathos, and yet diligent - and patient - about its horror credentials. This ignites into a hilarious comedy that is at times dangerously black. Played straight with the gusto of English characterisations, Shaun of The Dead hardly misses a beat as it bounces from the understatement of the first half to the gloriously gory bloodletting of the last quarter
Suburban London has never felt more menacing in an ordinary sort of way in the first two reels, and co-writer/director Edgar Wright teases us mercilessly with glimpses of zombies almost out of frame; we see the glimpses, Shaun doesn't. This helps build suspense with comic tension and by the time the film breaks into a gallop, we're thirsting for blood.
The main filmmakers emerged in Channel Four's 1999 highly acclaimed series Spaced, about slackers like Shaun. Both star/writer Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright are zombie fans, and an early episode of the series had Pegg's character trapped in a game of Resident Evil 2, fighting zombies. That whetted their appetite for zombie projects, and here they are.
It's funny and engaging, with enough going on to keep our interest for the film's entire running time, and Wright adds a zesty style that propels the story with brio without taking away from the content. Watch this team, they could be the next - but new - Monty Pythons.
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SHAUN OF THE DEAD (MA)
CAST: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Nicola Cunningham, Keir Mills, Matt Jaynes, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy
PRODUCER: Nira Park
DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright
SCRIPT: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David M. Dunlap
EDITOR: Chris Dickens
MUSIC: Dan Mudford, Pete Woodhead
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marcus Rowland
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 7, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: March 23, 2004
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.