Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MR Shaun of the Dead

We take Pete's car, go round Mum's, go in, deal with Philip - "Sorry, Philip!" - grab Mum, go to Liz's, pick her up, bring her back here, have a cup of tea and wait for this whole thing to blow over.


More reviews from Edgar Wright and his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy below!

Movie: Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead
Directed by Edgar Wright
Release date 2004
Genre Horror comedy/Zombie film
Country United Kingdom/France

Following the original success of the British comedy series Spaced, Edgar Wright made his proper film debut with Shaun of the Dead, after an obscure low-budget first attempt back in 1995.

Shaun was a long-in-development project Edgar Wright had on his mind for quite a while after experimenting with some similar ideas on Space. Some of those few fan-favorites of the show would become the basis for a couple of actual movie scripts. Mostly the brief Resident Evil-inspired zombie nightmare sequence and the infamous over-the-top fingergun shootout - which would respectively give birth to both this Shaun of the Dead and the later 2007 Hot Fuzz.

The film was written by Edgar Wright himself and the always fun Simon Pegg, and stars Pegg and Nick Frost also returning from the show. Along them the film also features the gorgeous Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy. And the other Spaced co-star Jessica Stevenson plays a minor but memorable cameo role, and let's not forget the now-even more popular Martin Freeman (thanks to Sherlock and the Lord of the Rings franchise) who debuts here a partnership with Edgar Wright for films to come.

The film was a co-production between the London studio Working Title Films and the French production StudioCanal which has been helping put out a lot of alternative and independent films this last decade, before it was ultimately picked up by Universal Pictures to be distributed worldwide.

The film had quite a frantic "TV-style" schedule, the production of the film was shot over only nine weeks (!!), filmed entirely in London on location, using actual places and very little movie trickery to the scenery (it was fun looking for those streets when I visited London a while back).

The story follows this 30-something guy named Shaun, who works in an electronics retail store.

Shaun doesn't seem much invested in anything really in life. He basically just goes through the motions and never questions or seems preoccupied with growing up. Stuck in a job he hates, most of his relationships are strained at best. He seems to not put a lot of effort with his girlfriend Liz and instead ends up wasting time with his best friend Ed. He can't stand his stepfather after all these years. And they always end up spending all their time in this lil' London pup, the Winchester. They never do anything else.

It's a boring routine life, only made worse when Liz' roommates try to talk her out of this toxic relationship.

One day after forgetting their anniversary, she decides to call it quit and breaks up with him. That night Shaun and Ned go on a binge, get completely wasted and start playing loud music much to the annoyance of their own housemate Pete.

Who would have known it would have taken an entire zombie apocalypse to finally get Shaun to finally start to live!

Zombies everywhere! Shaun and Ed must find Liz, get her to safety and wait until it all blows over!

But going through the streets much through their own backyard will prove a far more complicated task then expected...

Like I said above, the original premise of Shaun of the Dead was inspired by an episode of Spaced (more precisely "Art", written by Simon Pegg). Which revolved originally around Simon Pegg's character having hallucinations of a zombie invasion while playing Resident Evil 2. That brief scene already packed quite a punch thanks to Edgar Wright's frenetic pacing and quick cuts.

Here given a much more ambitious budget, the premise was able to take flight into far more original directions.

Like the episode, the film was inspired by Pegg and Wright's love for George A. Romero's "Of the Dead" trilogy. They wanted to make their own zombie film. And as fans, they wanted theirs to follow the same general "zombie rules" and stylistic choices as Romero's. And they did so by using a similar style, cast and crew as Spaced - giving old Spaced alumnis all sorts of cameos and minor roles.

The feature film feature finally allowed Edgar Wright to stretch off his legs and show off his unique dynamic kinetic directing style and earning him much granted exposure.

Ideas he explored years prior in Spaced, now allowed to go free.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reprising here similar roles. Their love for all kinds of allusions and nods to pop culture from both films and video games. The films particularly employs a few inspired shots fans will no doubt be familiar with.

When the film was released, Shaun of the Dead took everyone by surprise.

By the end of the 1980s, there were so little honestly gory zombie films anymore, let even so horror comedies. It brought back the post-apocalyptic zombie genre back from the (un)dead.

Shaun of the Dead is a loving zombie parody/tribute. An homage to the genre. Instead of simply doing references to films directly (much like Spaced did), it plays off familiar notes through stylistic choices and a sense of meta self-awareness. 

The film mostly plays references to George A. Romero's earlier Dead films (Night of the Living Dead,
Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead
), Dawn particularly.

Proving the zombie genre had still something to say.

This was before the revival and subsequent invasion of the zombie genre in Hollywood (thanks to the likes of the return of Romero and The Walking Dead). Instead of merely using the zombies as cannon fodder to use the premise as a satire of society, Shaun of the Dead is a story of "a guy". And cares about an individual amongst this post-apocalyptic horror setting.

The film helped renew an interest in zombies.

The film was so perfectly carefully crafted. There's so many great scenes. My favorite simply following Shaun through the street as he goes on like every other day to the street corner shop to buy some ice cream and comes back home (and ignoring the zombies around).

A lot of attention to the details. The story of a guy that fears to commit and instead spends his afternoon with his best friend, farting, drinking and playing video games. The film has such great genuine scenes and dialogues.

The musical score by Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford is sort of discrete - a throwback to old Italian B-movie zombie films, specifically taking a few cues directly from Dawn of the Dead (including the infamous "The Gonk" remixed here). It also features a great original soundtrack from a wide variety of great songs (a staple of Edgar Wright), great music directly tied into the film sequences using the likes of Queen or The Smiths.

Shaun of the Dead is simply easily one of the best zombie movies if all time, alongside George A. Romero's classics.

It's a pretty smart film with great practical effects and prosthetics, and given a lot of attention to its music and sound to nicely bring it all together.

Let's also mention the little fun epilogue that is so rarely seen or thought about in zombie films usually. Taking place after the entire zombie outbreak "blew over", life is now back to "normal" as it is. The zombie virus leftovers are now being used as cheap labor and whatnot. And Shaun was apparently able to keep Ed - now zombie - to hang around and play video games.

You didn't learn anything, did you Shaun?

Shaun of the Dead is a great movie!

Everything on screen as a reason to be, and it all comes together nicely. Every shot matters. Things always come back or are either foreshadowing later events or being used to establish a later scene.

It's such a change from most of today's film directors nowadays, most whom always seem to half-ass their blockbuster movies or scrap entire plotlines or scenes will keeping things around that don't really matter in the long run.

It's the film that launched Edgar Wright's "Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy" (more on that below).

It would be one if the biggest internationally successful films to come out of the UK these last few years and has since become part of the pop culture. I mean, both Shaun and Ed made an appearance on a Disney cartoon last Halloween!

Shaun of the Dead was singlehandedly responsible for bringing the entire zombie genre back to the big screen. Which has since then known a renewed interest and spawned countless comics, TV shows or video games to this days (to a point of saturation, to be honest).

Overall, Shaun of the Dead is such a fantastic film! It's a really fun loving tribute of genre. Appropriately gory and a perfect blend of horror and comedy, a genre that has seen very little outside of the 80s. At the time the film was such a fun approach to zombies. It was highly successful with both fans of the genre and the mainstream audience, as such this one comes obviously Highly Recommended!

The film is great. There's so many gags and it's perfectly paced and acted. Despite a pretty young career, director Edgar Wright was such a great filmmaker who really knows his stuff. He perfectly thought every shot, a lot of work and thought was certainly put into the making of this film. Great direction all around.

It's such a fun film, easily one of the better horror films from this decade, not just the best horror comedy film I've seen in ages, but possibly of all time. It was notably one of Quentin Tarantino  favorite films of all time. And in fact, the film impressed the creator of the whole zombie genre so much that George A. Romero would finally revisit it in his 2005 film Land of the Dead. Heck, he even gave Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg cameo roles as zombies in his film.

It's the film I would credit for having kickstarted the entire zombie genre back. It made possible this renewed interest in zombies nowadays which brought Romero back, to Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead series. It brought zombies back to mainstream attentions. Since then there's been countless zombie films and games. All in due part to Shaun of the Dead if you think about it. After the return of the creator of the genre, zombies would simply never be quiet ever again.

There's even been a few films directly inspired by Shaun of the Dead's horror comedy and self-aware tone. And since it's a worldwide phenomenon, it spawned a few "copies" such as the pretty fun 2010 Cuban film Juan of the Dead or also the 2013 Singaporean film Hsien of the Dead.

It's a cult classic, as such the film has been declined into all kinds of products since its release. Including some pretty good NECA figurines and two comic books, a one-shot from Brit publisher 2000AD and a tie-in much closer adaptation at IDW.

For a really long while both Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright thought about making a sequel to Shaun. Like swapping zombies for some other kind of monster this time. But finally (thankfully), they abandoned those projects. Which is better if you ask me, "Shaun of the Dead" is better left by itself, as a stand-alone tale. It's much better in my eyes. (Not everything needs to be a trilogy!!)

Instead the film became the first entry in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy (aka the "Blood and Ice Cream trilogy"). A series of comedy films playing off a few nerdy movie genres. Shaun was followed by Hot Fuzz in 2007 and The World's End in 2013. The name of this "series" came from a silly joke, once they noticed they always used a Cornetto ice cream in a scene on Hot Fuzz. Each film was given a different ice cream flavor, red strawberry-flavor for the blood and gore in Shaun. And I kind of prefer this to a proper more traditional sequel, instead of the cheap follow-up you would see Hollywood come up with following the success of a previous film. It allows for more originality and artistic freedom for one. And it lets Edgar Wright explore different storylines and themes for each film, while keeping some allusions to each film and a few direct references between them. They all revolve around characters relationships while inside a different genre (be it zombie, cop or scifi films), about adults not wanting to grow up. And they all also feature most of the same cast of actors from the TV series Spaced (which you couldn't get if you had a proper sequel, since so many characters died in Shaun). Much like George A. Romero's own "Dead" trilogy in a way, same rough lines but the films aren't entirety tied through story or characters.

I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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