Summary: A clever, funny and horrifying social commentary.
Review: The zombie subgenre of horror runs on the rules and themes established by its godfather, George Romero, and chief among the allegories is the similarity of modern consumer culture to the ravenous cannibalistic behavior of the zombies. Since romantic comedies are often driven by sex appeal and shiny objects, it’s almost too brilliant to turn one into a Romeroesque zombie movie. Director Edgar Wright — who should be on my top ten directors list — succeeds in creating the rare perfect mashup, a film that satisfies the appetites of both of its genres. This means you have to enjoy (actually clever) romantic comedy just as much as gory horror, but if you have the taste, the movie is stunning. Its packed with references without being loaded down, brisk without being breathless, heartwarming without being schmaltzy, funny without straining for gags, scary without compromise, and all around excellent.
Simon Pegg is Shaun, an electronics salesman who sleepwalks through life. He lets his best friend, played by Nick Frost, get away with being a couch potato, and fails at giving his girlfriend, Liz, real attention and love. He’s so checked out, in fact, that a zombie apocalypse sweeps across England and he doesn’t notice until a zombie practically knocks on his door. Taking a page from the romantic comedy playbook, the filmmakers discard the usual bleak, nihilistic ending of zombie pictures and turn the apocalyptic circumstances into character transformation for Shaun. The zombie allegory doesn’t just touch the viewer, it gets to the characters, and arguably makes it more powerful.
The movie captures the gritty, horror film look and, partially on account of its limited and aged locations, feels pretty retro. Edgar Wright mixes this classic look with hyperactive, intelligent shots and transitions, and the result is positively unique, bearing fingerprints I recognize in Wright’s other films as well, the mark of an auteur. What Wright & Co manage to do with limited locations and budget is positively inspiring for young filmmakers like myself. Every time I imagine the film, it feels bigger than it looks while I actually watch it. That’s the spark of imagination. It’s really quite brilliant, and for the next generation of indie filmmakers, I can’t recommend this stunning debut enough.
Buy It From Amazon: Shaun of the Dead [Blu-ray]