Shaun of the Dead was a zombie/comedy film that was directed by Edgar Wright and written by himself and Simon Pegg. This film came out 9 years ago now and has since become a cult classic that helped to launch the trio of Wright, Pegg and co star Nick Frost to fame. If you watch it, it’s easy to see why. The film manages to blur so many different genre’s but in a coherent and truly enjoyable way.
Recently I did a blog post about Spaced (https://08stockdaleb.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/35-spaced/) which was a sitcom that was also co created by Pegg and Wright and this film builds off the back of that series, even including references and much of the same cast. And like Spaced a lot of tension is built up in scenes that eventually lead to an anticlimax, although in this film it is much more ironic as the audience (if they know anything about the film) know that zombies will be in the film so every time tension is built up the audience expects to see a zombie. This becomes the real genius of the film as because of all this build up, which involves numerous small bits of information that hint towards the impending danger in ranging values of subtlety, once the zombies actually appear they do so in a very average way, so much so that the main characters are completely oblivious to the zombies for a long time which is incredibly funny to watch.
The first half of the film follows Shaun trying to juggle fixing his relationship with Liz, giving his mum attention and going to the pub with his mate Ed. However throughout this first half there is a large amount of foreshadowing. At one point Ed basically foretells the events of the second half of the film. One whole scene of Shaun going to the local shop is repeated in an almost identically filmed shot once the zombies are present which is one of the best moments of the film as Shaun has a hangover and is unaware of the danger around him.
There is also a very iconic scene where Shaun and Ed are discussing their plan to survive the event which is done in a montage of short snappy shots which is one of Edgar Wrights distinct signature styles. It’s such a funny scene as Pegg and Frost have such a great on screen chemistry which is present throughout the rest of the film and in every film they’ve done since. It’s also their bromance vs Shaun’s and Liz’s relationship that is one of the core underlying plots of the film and reaches quite an emotional outcome towards the end of the film.
I think one of the reasons this film is so good is that it has such a simple empathatic plot behind it. It’s main focuses are on 6 people trying desperately to survive in a tragic situation and the struggles that they have because of this, and also the more generic plot of a man and a woman struggling with their relationship which is where the genre’s blur but because this very average situation between a couple and their bickering is played out with the backdrop of a zombie survival film it becomes a hilarious thing to watch.
As the film get’s on the tone becomes darker and darker but manages to still have humour which is a testimony to the brilliant way in which it is written and acted. The audience feel empathy towards all the characters as they are all very relatable. There’s Shaun as the wannabe hero who has troubles with his love life but is good hearted, Ed is the rather foolish but funny best mate, Liz is the frustrated partner and the mother who fusses around other people but doesn’t want to worry them with her own problems. Those four core characters feel like movie archetypes, but as Pegg and Wright love to reference other films and made this film as they are huge fan’s of the horror genre, this will have been done consciously as a way to achieve the most empathy from the audience as possible.
As the title suggests this has become the first film of the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. I bought a blu-ray boxset of this trilogy this week which is why how I’ve watched this film, I’ve watched Hot Fuzz before but I am intending to watch it again tomorow night and I am yet to watch the third film The World’s End. So I can’t say how it compares to The Worlds End but personally I prefer Hot Fuzz to Shaun of the Dead simply because I am not a big fan of horror films in general. In addition Hot Fuzz is possibly my favourite film I’ve ever watched but the reasons I love that film is for the same reasons I love this film except Hot Fuzz is an easier watch for me I suppose. Shaun of the Dead would definitely get high up in my list of favourite films because of the fact that it hasn’t just slipped away in the almost decade since it’s release, it has earned a place in pop culture and will most likely remain there for a long time because it is so brilliant and hilarious and even besides the comedy is a well written and captivating survival story.