Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stubs - Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (2004): Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Nick Frost, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton. Directed by Edgar Wright. Produced by Nira Park. Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg. Run Time: 99. Color, U.K. Comedy, Horror

Okay, after over 400 reviews, we’ve noticed, at Trophy Unlocked, a great dearth of comments. And we’ve been hearing the buzz on the street; “I’d leave a comment if only they ever reviewed a comedy zombie movie.” Well, we’ve heard you and are doing our best to rectify the situation with a review of Shaun of the Dead, the Simon Pegg – Edgar Wright penned 2004 film.

Now part of the reason we haven’t reviewed any comedy zombie movies is that we had never seen one. While there may be many funny zombie movies, we’re talking about ones that were intentionally funny, not ones so bad they write their own MST3K script. That’s why Shaun of the Dead made such a splash when it was released in 2004, seeing as it filled that void.

At 29, Shaun’s (Simon Pegg) life is in a rut and he is simply digging himself into a deeper hole every day. To begin with, he has a dead end job as an electronics store salesman and even though he is the senior member of the staff, the younger employees give him no respect. He has an estranged relationship with his mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and a rocky relationship with his stepfather of 17 years, Phillip (Bill Nighy).

At home his flatmate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), is already past tired of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s best friend since primary school, who is a mess in every sense of the word and the guest who never leaves or gets a job. And lastly, Shaun’s longtime girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is dissatisfied. Every night they end up at the Winchester Pub and by every night, I mean every night. The couple never does anything alone together; Shaun always brings Ed, and Liz brings her flatmates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis).

Shaun takes Liz to the Winchester pub every night.
After a particularly miserable day at work, Shaun meets an old friend, Yvonne (Jessica Stevenson), who has recently moved into his neighborhood. When the conversation gets around to what Shaun and Liz are doing to celebrate their anniversary Shaun realizes he’s forgotten to make reservations at the restaurant he promised to take Liz to that night. Strange things are starting to happen around them but no one seems to really pay attention.
Shaun tries to get a table but just misses out. He then tries to make amends to Liz, going to her flat, but David and Dianne refuse to let him up, so Shaun climbs up the outside. But Liz is not impressed by his determination or the flowers he gives her, which he’d originally bought for his mom. Liz breaks up with Shaun and he naturally goes back to the Winchester, where Ed is there and they drink themselves into an oblivious state. When time is called at the pub, they continue their drinking and spinning electro records at home. At four, Pete has had enough with their antics. Pete has to go in to work in four hours, is suffering from a headache and was bitten during a mugging on the way home from work. Pete berates Shaun and tells him to sort out his life, something a drunken Shaun does, making a list on a whiteboard on the refrigerator.

Drunk, Shaun and Ed play their records well into the morning.
By the next morning, the zombie uprising has overwhelmed London, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his own problems and hangover to notice. He goes to the local convenience store to get his morning coke and ice cream cone, but doesn’t even notice the bloody hand print on the cooler door, nor the fact that all around him there are dead bodies.
A preoccupied and hungover Shaun doesn't notice the bloody hand prints.
Ed notices that there is a woman in their garden and he and Shaun go out to investigate. But the woman isn’t drunk, as they suspect, but undead. Shaun manages to fight her off and accidentally pushes her down on some sort of pole in the yard, impaling her, but not killing her. She rises up with a three inch hole going through her entire body and starts coming after them again. Retreating back inside Shaun and Ed become aware of what is happening after watching reports on TV, as the woman and a man zombie attack their house. Taking advice from news reports to cut off the heads or damage the zombie’s brains, the two fight back with things from their kitchen, their record collection and finally weapons from their shed, managing to subdue the two zombies with a shovel and a cricket bat.

Shaun and Ed taking care of a couple of zombies in their garden.
Despite TV reports to stay inside and not attempt to rescue loved ones, Shaun and Ed decide they need to do just that and take everyone somewhere safe. The plan is to collect Shaun's mother, Barbara, kill Phillip, who Barbara reveals has been bitten, and then collect Liz. They replay the plan as it gets revised. First, they were going to stay with Liz, but Ed doesn’t want to be somewhere unfamiliar so they plan to come back to their flat, but they only have tea to drink, so they settle on the Winchester where they think they can ride out the crisis with a pint and some crisps.
How Shaun wishes things would go with Liz and his mom both safe.
They decide to use Pete’s car, mostly because Ed’s always wanted to drive it. But Pete doesn’t answer when they call his name. Thinking he must have gone into work, Shaun is shocked to find a naked Pete hiding out in the shower in the bathroom. The pair manages to escape in Pete's car even as other zombies close in.
Zombies are everywhere in Shaun of the Dead.
After collecting Barbara and Phillip (whom they decide not to kill), they switch cars and drive in Phillip's Jaguar and head to Liz’s flat. Once again, Shaun has to climb up the outside to get in. David is reluctant to leave, but does because Dianne is going, as is Liz, and David doesn’t want to be left alone.
Shaun only wants to save Liz (r), but ends up taking Dianne and David as well.
On the way to the Winchester, Phillip dies of his bite, but only after he manages to make peace with Shaun. Abandoning the car as Phillip turns into a zombie inside, they set off on foot, bumping into Yvonne and her own band of survivors, which mirrors Shaun’s, including her boyfriend, Declan (Martin Freeman), the couple her boyfriend shares a flat with, her mother (Julie Deakin) and her ne’er do well friend. The two bands cross paths, but each is going somewhere different for refuge.
Yvonne's group mirrors Shaun's, including her boyfriend, his flatmates,her mother and slobby friend.
Discovering the path to the Winchester is infested with zombies, they devise a plan to sneak by, but Ed and Shaun get into an argument out front, alerting the zombies around them. Even though Shaun insists there is another way into the pub, David smashes one of the front windows. Shaun distracts the zombies so the others can get inside. The five take refuge inside the pub and Shaun joins them after he thinks he’s given “the zombies the slip."
Denise, Liz, David, Shaun and Ed try to fool the zombies by pretending to be one of them.
After several hours, Ed gives away their position by playing music on the jukebox when the power comes back on. The zombies converge on the pub. Shaun discovers that the Winchester rifle above the bar is functional and they use it to fend off the zombies. Barbara reveals a bite wound she picked up along the way and dies, becomes a zombie, and is reluctantly shot by a heartbroken Shaun.
Shaun's mum turns zombie.
One by one the band is overwhelmed by the attacking zombies. David, who is standing too close to one of the windows, gets pulled out and is dismembered and disemboweled by the zombies, as a frantic Dianne unbolts the door to rescue him, exposing Shaun, Liz, and Ed to the zombies. Ed prepares a Molotov cocktail to fend them off, but Pete arrives and bites him before he can throw it. Liz, Shaun and Ed manage to get over the bar and Shaun sets fire to the bar, which only holds back the zombies for a few minutes. As the zombies continue to converge, the three manage to escape into the cellar, where they are truly trapped. They contemplate suicide before discovering how to open the service hatch to ground level. Shaun and Liz escape through the hatch, leaving the mortally wounded Ed behind with the rifle. Back on the street, Shaun and Liz prepare to fight the zombies once more, but the British Army arrives and starts mowing down zombies with machine gun fire. Yvonne, the only one from her band to have survived, happens to be with the army and tells Shaun and Liz to follow her. As they approach the safety of the trucks, the couple is holding hands.
Liz, Shaun and Ed prepare to fight off zombies in the Winchester.
Six months after the outbreak, the uninfected have returned to a semblance of daily life, while the remaining zombies, retaining their instincts, are used as cheap labor and for entertainment. Liz and Shaun have moved in together in Shaun's house, and are planning their day, which of course ends with them at the Winchester before coming home to watch a little telly before bed. But while Liz makes tea, Shaun nips out to the garden where in the shed, Ed, who is now a zombie, is tethered and playing video games. Shaun now has it all, the love of a good woman and the companionship of his best mate.
Ed might be a zombie, but he still plays video games.
Having been a fan of English humor since the arrival of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on these shores, I really enjoyed a lot of Shaun of the Dead. The writing is very witty and the stars have their own appeal, Simon Pegg especially. I’d love to say that the film balances the humor and the gore, but while the film can be very funny, it can also be very gory, as when David is literally disemboweled by the zombies in very graphic form. Of all the characters, David deserves it the most. He is a real twat, the least likeable of the bunch, hypercritical of Shaun and in love, not with Dianne, but with Liz. That’s about the only thing that makes the disemboweling worth seeing.
David gets too close to the window and is about to be devoured by zombies.
My first exposure to director Edgar Wright was Scott Pilgrim vs.the World (2010), one of the best movies from that year. There are some of the same traits I saw in that film in Shaun. I really love how the scenario Shaun and Ed work out about saving his mother and Liz gets replayed every time it gets revised. Wright is definitely a talented comedic director with a certain style and I look forward to seeing more films he’s helmed.
While I had heard, but not seen, this film until recently, I had seen Simon Pegg in the two J.J. Abrams Star Trek films. In both he manages to walk the fine line between bringing humor to the part without being a parody of Montgomery Scott as played for years by James Doohan. Pegg definitely is a very talented actor and writer, he co-wrote the screenplay with Wright, and I’m sure he’ll have a very long career on both sides of the camera and on both sides of the Atlantic.
Shaun of the Dead shows what can be accomplished on a very low budget, $6 million. The effects, even the ones I tried to look away from, are done very well. The film's modest success was enough to keep the team of Pegg, Wright and Frost working together on their Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (aka the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy): Shaun, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. The trilogy is named after a British brand of ice cream novelty, with a particular flavor of the ice cream novelty in each movie. In Shaun, it’s Strawberry, but frankly this is something I had to learn via the internet. While Shaun does get a frozen ice cream cone from the convenience store, as part of his hangover cure, I didn’t catch the brand or the flavor as neither was mentioned.
While the movie is very funny and I would definitely recommend it, remember that it was rated R for a reason and should not, even with Pegg as the star, be considered a family film.
Okay, there you have it, our first comedic zombie film review.(Whew!) Comments are welcomed below as they are for every film, video game and licensed video game comic on the blog. Thanks for your continued patronage. 
Shaun hurries to leave a comment on Trophy Unlocked.

No comments:

Post a Comment