MagazineFeature articles

Just in | Library of feature articles

Share

Shaun of the Dead (Mark's Take)

02/11/2004. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy Shaun of the Dead in the USA - or Buy Shaun of the Dead in the UK

author pic

This film is like a crossbreeding of George Romero and Mike Leigh. Oblivious lower-middle-class Londoners slowly become aware that the dead are returning at trying to eat the living. This satire laughs at the tropes of the zombie movie, but even more at the foibles of English life today. The first half is very funny and the second half is at least witty.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This film is like a crossbreeding of George Romero and Mike Leigh. Oblivious lower-middle-class Londoners slowly become aware that the dead are returning at trying to eat the living. This satire laughs at the tropes of the zombie movie, but even more at the foibles of English life today. The first half is very funny and the second half is at least witty. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.

Shaun and his friends from a run-down part of London live from one dull night at the pub to the next. Shaun clerks in a store during the day basically to get money for ale and peanuts in the evening. Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is tired of their relationship and of going to the pub each night with the same friends.

It looks like he will lose her and that he is a man who has no future anyway, so he does not notice when the civilization loses its future. What happens is pretty much what happened in George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the dead start to come back. The cause may be a returning space probe or frankenfood or maybe something else, but the dead start coming back to life to and eating the living.

The problem is that with the self-absorbed people of Shaun's circle of friends and with the number of drunks usually on the street, having flesh-eating zombies is too subtle a change to show up on Shaun's radar screen. Oh, sure, the television is talking about some sort of nasty disaster going on, but the telly is just sort of background noise to Shaun. He has too many other problems of his own to figure out what the man on the telly is on about. People staggering in the street?

Well, welcome to London. But that gag can last only so long. The film stays funny even after Shaun and his pal and housemate Ed (Nick Frost) realize that this crisis really could be serious enough to affect them. Where the film really damps down is in the final third.

The film references are always fun. And in a sort of scene that has been worn out, like the killing of zombies, this film brings new humor. A scene of Shaun and Ed in their backyard using familiar objects to fight a pair of approaching zombies is new and funny and also characterizes Ed and Shaun.

Unlike in most zombie films, the characters are actually developed and the dialog is good and telling. We do get to know the main characters. This is not an accident. Most of the actors and much of the production crew worked together in the British television comedy series "Spaced" and in SHAUN OF THE DEAD they continue the 30-something dialog and humor of that show. Simon Pegg again stars and co-writes. Edgar Wright again directs and this time co-writes. Several others actors are in common. (Perhaps with the popularity of this film, that series will become available in the United States.)

There is, however, one welcome addition to the cast. Since some people saw Bill Nighy in LOVE ACTUALLY they have been dying to know where they could see more of this actor. Here he plays Philip, Shaun's stepfather. As soon as you see him you know in this movie he is destined to die and become a zombie. How could anybody put Nighy in a zombie film and not let him play a zombie?

This film brings to mind another odd take on Romero's zombie premise. In the 2004 French film LES REVENANTS directed and co- written by Robin Campillo the dead return as zombies who for once are benign. That film takes a serious look at the interpersonal and social effects of having the dead come back to life.

Actually not all of the cleverness of SHAUN OF THE DEAD should be attributed to this production. The idea that many of the living are already zombie-like and might as well be dead really goes back to DAWN OF THE DEAD which itself had quite a bit of humor. This comedy also is reminiscent of the wickedly funny short DAWN OF THE NIGHT OF THE DEAD: THE MUSICAL.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a well-written satire taking the dead horror sub-genre of zombie films and, well, bringing it back to life. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2004 Mark R. Leeper

 

Magazine > Feature articles

Just in | Library of feature articles

Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...

Share

Post your comments

CLICK HERE TO HAVE YOUR SAY


Warning: include(../../../comments/lib/2004/news5532.inc): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2004/Shaun-of-the-Dead-Marks-Take-5532.php on line 84

Warning: include(../../../comments/lib/2004/news5532.inc): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2004/Shaun-of-the-Dead-Marks-Take-5532.php on line 84

Warning: include(): Failed opening '../../../comments/lib/2004/news5532.inc' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/php54/lib/php') in /home/hunt0799/public_html/articles/features/2004/Shaun-of-the-Dead-Marks-Take-5532.php on line 84

The all-new SFcrowsnest is now running at www.SFcrowsnest.org.uk. This is now the archive for pre-2012 content. Nothing new is being posted here.

Magazine Articles

- Features

- Movie/TV Reviews

- Book Reviews

- News

- E-mail magazine

- Encyclopedia

- Other formats: Kindle, Nook, Sony Ebook, iPhone & iPod

Charts

- Top books

- Top movies/tv series

Offworld

- SciFi @ FaceBook

- Steampunk @ FaceBook

- Us @ Google+

Search

- Search site

Reader Tools

- RSS news feed

- Facebook page for SFcrowsnest

- Twitter page for SFcrowsnest

- Google toolbar for SFcrowsnest

Webmaster Tools

- Add our content feeds to your site