Monday, March 20, 2017

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING: I give out a lot of details about the movie in this review. If you’re not into finding out major details about the movie, don’t read this until you’ve seen it. You’ve been warned!

If you saw a zombie moving down the street, what would you do? Do you think you would even know what to do? Shaun is just your average guy. He has a job in retail that he hates, but does anyway. He has two roommates, Ed and Pete, that are extremes. (Ed sits around all day playing video games while Pete likes to think of himself as the responsible one.)

There’s a zombie outbreak, but Shaun doesn’t take notice of it. It’s all over the news, but he somehow manages to tune it out. Zombies are walking down his street, but he doesn’t see them. Perhaps this is because things in his life aren’t going so well. His girlfriend, Liz, wants to go someplace special, but dumps Shaun when he wants to take her to the Winchester, which is where they always go. He also has to visit his mother, which means visiting his stepfather, who he doesn’t like.

Eventually, Shaun pauses on a channel long enough to listen to what’s going on. That’s when Ed notices a woman in the back yard. They realize that the Zombie epidemic has reached their house. The newscaster on TV tells Ed and Shaun about the zombies. To become infected, one is bitten, dies and comes back to life as a zombie. The man on TV mentions some of the early symptoms, which Pete seemed to have had. He also says that to ‘kill’ a zombie, one has to either decapitate said zombie or to cause brain damage.

Shaun and Ed grab blunt objects and try to figure out what they’re going to do. They decide to get Liz first, then to get Shaun’s mother. Things don’t go entirely as planned; Ed manages to crash their car while he’s waiting for Shaun to come out of Liz’s place. Shaun’s stepfather has been bitten, but he’s not showing signs yet. They take the stepfather’s car to the Winchester, which is easier said than done. Hopefully, they’ll be able to wait out the night.

The movie works on a lot of different levels. Sure, the whole zombie thing is ridiculous, but it’s a comedy. Comedies can get away with that sort of stuff. It’s never explained where the outbreak originated from. There are brief phrases about experiments, but nothing specific. The real focus is on Shaun and Ed, who simply want to survive until help can get there.

Shaun is very frustrated, yet is constantly thrust into a position of responsibility. Since his boss is out sick, he’s left in charge of the store. He’s the one that has to convince Ed to do something. He has to make reservations at a good restaurant, but fails to do so. Still, Shaun is the one to step up and take charge of the group, hoping to save everyone. As one of Liz’s roommates points out, Liz and her two roommates might have been safer if they had been left in her apartment.

This is not a movie for children, and I mean that in the most extreme way. You might even want to skip this paragraph if you’re squeamish. There are several scenes where zombies are eating corpses. There’s also another scene where someone has internal organs pulled out while he’s alive. There aren’t a lot of gross scenes, but those that are gross are very intense.

There are some funny scenes, too. Shaun and Ed want to use records as weapons. While two zombies approach, they discuss which records to throw at them. Most of the records don’t hit the zombies and those that do don’t seem to have any effect on them. Also, at the end of the movie, there are several shows involving zombies. (For instance, there’s a talk show featuring a woman married to a zombie.)

I thought that there was more comedy that horror, but there was a lot of tragedy in it. I think that Liz and Shaun are the only two main characters to make it through unaffected. I came into the movie expecting something that made fun of living-dead movies. Even the title is presumably a play on “Dawn of the Dead”. However, there was more to it than that. I really think that a lot of people can enjoy it, depending mostly on how much gore they have a tolerance for. 

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