Why Shaun of the Dead is Brilliant
Review by Tuxxer
I saw this movie for the first time at my brother's house. We occasionally loan each other movies and even make gifts of them to each other if we think one another would like it. From the first time I saw the flick, I knew I liked it a lot. As thanks for a favor, Andy gave me his copy of Shaun of the Dead. I've watched it at least 3 additional times since he gave it to me, and I'm loving it more with each viewing.
I love this DVD. I think you should get yourself a copy of it at the absolute earliest opportunity, and let me tell you why.
The writing: The script is by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Simon plays Shaun in the movie, while Edgar directed it. The dialogue is hilarious stuff with a "poor brakes" technique to its comedy. (Poor brakes: After the punchline has been said and dialogue has resumed, a line or two later an add-on to the punchline is woven into the dialogue which makes it even funnier; the joke didn't stop going.) I love the stuff. I think it's one of the best horror/comedies since the genre's pioneer, An American Werewolf in London.
The cast: Simon Pegg is brilliant as Shaun. The comedic chemistry he shares with Nick Frost (Shaun's best friend Ed) stems from their real-life friendship, and the two have some wonderful moments together. Kate Ashfield as a frustrated-but-flexible Liz is terrific. And she's not too bad on the eyes, either. Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis round out the cast as roommates of Liz, who are also a couple. They don't think very highly of Shaun or Ed, and the dynamic it creates is great.
The references: Shaun of the Dead, in addition to being a great flick in its own right, is also a running tribute jam-packed with references to its zombie-filled predecessors. Bits of dialogue, simple gestures, themes from the soundtrack and Shaun's hesitancy to use 'the zed-word' all spell one damned good movie. Simon and Edgar have even earned themselves cameo appearances in George Romero's upcoming Land of the Dead. Bam.
The structure: To tell a good story, you need to have good structure. That's why they call it a story arc. One of my favorite techniques in a story is the trick of fore-shadowing. When its done well (and not ham-fisted), there's nothing like it. There are numerous hints and indicators as to what lays ahead both for individual characters (including bit parts) and the whole group. My personal favorite is in Ed's suggestion that they just keep drinking through the following day, and subtly forecasts the movie's upcoming events. (Such as: he suggests they start with Bloody Mary's, the next morning they find a zed-word person named Mary in their back yard.)
The music: It's not often that I see a movie and think to myself, "I really want to go out and buy the soundtrack to that movie." Ironically the last such case was the remade Dawn of the Dead, but since one was never released I just bought Johnny Cash's When the Man Comes Around instead. I plan to pick up the Shaun soundtrack as soon as I can; the music perfectly accompanied the goings on in the flick. Top notch.
The Extras: The DVD has deleted scenes, alternate takes (Check out The Man Who Would be Shaun), plot hole explanations, and bits from the TV that Shaun and Ed merely flipped through. Also included are a photo diary, zombie gallery, and Zomb-o-meter, a running track of captions that reveal bits of trivia as you go. (I prefer that to audio commentary since you can't hear what they're saying as well anyway. Audio commentary's on there, too.)
Yee gods, I loved this flick. If you have any love for the zombie genre at all, or even just want a great comedy to see, go pick up Shaun of the Dead. How's that for a slice of fried gold?
Check out Stinkhead's review of the remake Dawn of the Dead (2004). You can buy Shaun of the Dead DVD from Amazon.com