Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

For Valentine's Day, a rather unusual form of romance - indeed the first of a whole new genre of its kind (not often repeated since): the "rom-zom-com". It's also one of the best zombie films of recent years and a pretty effective satire on the modern way of living, especially in Britain.

The "rom" element of it is represented by titular Shaun (Simon Pegg), and his struggles to keep in with his cute girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield): loving, but whose patience with a man like Shaun is, like for all girls, limited - especially where Shaun's geeky friend Ed (Nick Frost) is concerned. A love triangle, of sorts, between Liz and Ed for Shaun's affections.

The "zom" effect kicks into gear when the perennial meteorite - or in this case a flaming space shuttle on re-entry - flies by the Earth (by whatever method it is that turns people into zombies), and the following morning the world is the same dreary zombie-like existence outside for Shaun, except for some odd inconsistencies: the people want to walk into walls and also eat each other.

The mixture of romance with adventure works generally very well - more effectively than Titanic which mixed romance with adventure (in a "period" setting) - perhaps due to Edgar Wright's film being grounded in a believable contemporary setting.

One of the film's best gags: the zombie-like passengers before the attack... 
...are not terribly different to the actual zombies afterwards!

It's the first time also that I've seen the real everyday Britain as I recognise it, beyond any stereotypical American (or British) depiction. Wright weaves a skilful mixture of British comedy and archetypal zombie thriller, and his subsequent success has led him deservedly to other films of repute including Hollywood.

His cast is as exemplary as for any British film of yesterday, all seasoned actors with stage or TV experience, from veteran Penelope Wilton as Shaun's Mum, to Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis (recently to be soon in equally good comic form in Wonder Woman), and a whole score of recognisable faces, including many from British television news.

Shaun and friends, and their curiously similar fellow band of zombie battlers: Jessica Stevenson, Martin Freeman, Reece Shearsmith, Tamsin Greig, Julia Deakin, Matt Lucas.

And then there is the champion of all zombified looking British actors, Bill Nighy as Shaun's justifiably grumpy father-in-law. Nighy was already established as a familiar face from some of Britain's most entertaining recent films, and it's almost a shame that his role isn't any longer than a typical scene-stealing cameo.

Come the end of all this, Liz has the perfect recipe for dealing with the post-apocalypse:

"A cup of tea, then we get the Sunday [papers], head down to the Phoenix for a roast, veg out in the pub for a bit, then wander home, watch a bit of telly, go to bed."

The very last joke of the film is also delightfully satirical.

I watched and enjoyed Shaun of the Dead for the first time back in 2004 at the Odeon Colchester, and years later again on TV on holiday with my Dad. It made him laugh too, so it's a special film indeed, with its universal in the best of British humour, and also a pretty effective zombie flick.

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100 Favourite Films

100 Favourite Films