Its very difficult to launch a whole new movie genre in the modern era but Shaun of the Dead managed it, creating the Zom-Rom-Com and skyrocketing the careers of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. That is because this is a perfectly crafted movie. There isn’t a step out of place or a wasted scene. It is all at once funny, scary and emotional, knowing to play for laughs, knowing when to pause for a sombre moment or even knowing when to combine the two.
The success of the movie is the simplicity. Rather than focus on the zombie apocalypse and a group of heroes trying to save the day, Shaun of the Dead focuses on a normal English bloke trying to get to the girl he loves, via his Mum, and then down the pub. This simplicity means the film can shake-up the zombie formula, from playing on the rag-tag group who are thrown together for survival, the bizarre ways you can kill a zombie and how when society falls apart, so much of it stays the same.
It also helps that Shaun is played by Simon Pegg and his best friend, with him through the journey, is played by Nick Frost. The two have fantastic chemistry and are effortlessly funny. The best moments are not the broad, well-staged comedy set-pieces (although these are great) but the throwaway lines, the “in-jokes” and very normal moments amongst the chaos. You could watch them just hang out on the sofa having a chat so they are so much more entertaining when trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The movie runs the gambit of every zombie cliché but the setting and the writing manage to keep it feeling fresh and funny. It is a comedy but it isn’t spoofing the zombie genre. It takes it seriously, which means that key characters get bitten, the deaths are gory but they matter and there is always a serious sense of peril. It doesn’t feel lightweight in its comedy.
It does feel very British though. Pegg plays Shaun as an “everyman” or more appropriately, “every-bloke” who just wants to get to the pub and wait for it all to blow over. He hates his boss, loves his Mum and plays the reluctant hero brilliantly. Edgar Wright manages to bring a distinct style to the movie, from the clever use of the soundtrack through to some expert casting which manages to include Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, as well as the best of British talent from Matt Lucas to Martin Freeman.
This British feel gives the film a sense of realism. It doesn’t feel like a huge blockbuster which is perfect. It isn’t low-budget but definitely fits the “indie” mould which gives the film a fantastic charm. It is also ambitious and never lets the smaller scale of both the production and story dampen the scope of the movie.
Overall, Shaun of the Dead is funny, heart-warming, dramatic and charming all at once. It has a great cast, a brilliant story and manages to somehow breathe a fresh approach to the zombie genre. Best of all, it has a British charm that brings it all together.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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