Review: Shaun of the Dead

Vintage Viewings

Will Campbell, Writer

Vintage Viewings is a series of articles all about movies made before or during the year 2005.

Shaun of the Dead begins with our main character, the eponymous Shaun, sitting in a pub, arguing with his girlfriend, and chatting with his obnoxious best mate, Ed… After this, Shaun and his girlfriend break up, but then Shaun meets a new girl, and falls in love. Despite this, Shaun still feels incomplete, like something’s wrong. The dates aren’t fun anymore, and one night he has an epiphany. He returns to his ex, begs for forgiveness, and they get back together. The movie teaches a valuable lesson, in that you should be loyal to those you love, but not before a musical bit where they dance to Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

Photo via iTunes under Creative Commons

Just kidding, that’s what would happen if Shaun of the Dead was your average romantic-comedy, but with a heap of zombie flick piled on top, Shaun of the Dead made romantic comedies fun again, if only for a little while before the genre stumbled away again with a limp, a groan, and the inevitable cricket bat to the head. But that’s beside the point, I’m here to talk about Shaun of the Dead, not the disappointment that was and still is the rom-com genre.

Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, the first in a trilogy of mostly unrelated movies by director Edgar Wright. These films were eventually dubbed The Cornetto Trilogy, named as such because all three movies featured a popular snack across the pond in the UK, known as a Cornetto. All three movies feature the same actors as well, in different roles of course. I’ll likely be reviewing these later, but for now, we’re going to start at the beginning.

Shaun of the Dead was filmed on a measly budget for £4,000,000 and only made back around £1,600,000 of that. The movie was considered a commercial flop, despite many critics enjoying it, one even saying that “The cast make a cozy fit, the patter is still sitcom snappy, but Wright also has the visual snap to carry this saga of backyard apocalypse.” The movie actually made most of its money back off of DVD sales, due to having quite the cult following

Like my earlier summary of the movie, Shaun of the Dead is all about a guy named Shaun, who has girlfriend troubles. Unlike my earlier summary of the movie, a zombie apocalypse breaks out, which prompts Shaun and his best friend Ed to go on a mission to rescue his girlfriend, her friends, and his mom. Of course, everything spirals out of control, and it’s all wrapped up into a tight little bundle, giving you an enjoyable hour-and-thirty-minute movie to sit down and watch when you’re bored.

The movie stars Simon Pegg, who you might know as Scotty from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films. It also stars Nick Frost, who plays Ed. These two come together to make one of the greatest comedy duos I’ve ever watched, rivaling even Key and Peele.

Photo via under Creative Commons

The movie is very tightly edited, often using tricks such as disorientating zooms on actions or objects, such as the brushing of teeth, or jelly being put on toast. There’s also the use of repetition in the movie, with a sequence from the start of the movie being repeated later, just with zombies replacing the living humans. Along with this, the movie heavily foreshadows later events, but I won’t mention that here. If you really want to know before you see the movie, just look up “Shaun of the dead foreshadowing.”

It’s also interesting how Edgar Wright combines the zombie genre with the rom-com genre and does it so effectively. The best part is that it’s only my second favorite movie out of the entire trilogy, with my favorite being Hot Fuzz, which I’ll be reviewing eventually.

However, the reason I appreciate this film so much is how it uses visuals to deliver laughs. Most American comedies nowadays consist of dialogue-heavy comedic moments. Shaun of the Dead, however, uses the pixels on your screen to provide comedy. Be it things coming into frame in funny ways, or things leaving the frame in funny ways, or actions synched to music, Shaun of the Dead brings to the table a new kind of hilarity that is, sadly, missing from comedies of the modern day.

To be fair, Edgar Wright isn’t the most recognizable director, even with his film Baby Driver breaking $100 million at the box office, the first of his movies to do so.  And that’s a real shame because Edgar Wright is one of the most genius directors making movies today. However, despite the lack of love for the movie, along with all of Wright’s other films, Shaun of the Dead still sets the bar for comedic and editing excellence.

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