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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween Retro Review: Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighly, David Walliams
Genre: Horror Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $30 million 

Plot: Shaun is a 30-something loser with a dull, easy existence. When he's not working at the electronics store, he lives with his slovenly best friend, Ed in a small flat on the outskirts of London. The only unpredictable element in his life is his girlfriend, Liz who wishes desperately for Shaun to grow up and be a man. When the town is inexplicably overrun by zombies, Shaun must rise to the occasion & protect both Liz and his mother. 

'Proof That Us Brits Can Do Horror As Well As Americans'

I was intrigued somewhat by Shaun of the Dead for 2 reasons: 1) it is a mixture of 2 genres, one I am not a die-hard fan of: Horror and the other that I enjoy watching and thus, is my favourite genre of film: being the comedy. and 2) it is the first real attempt of a horror film with a hint of comedy for good measure, made in the UK. And so my preconceptions into going into this film were it was going to be very heavy and strong on the horror aspect and very light with the comedic aspect. That alone, and being squeamish at times with really gory movies, meant that it would be too much for me to stomach. 

But alas, thankfully that was not the case with Shaun of the Dead

A lot of people have different reasons for avoiding horror movies: the most I could tolerate are things like Scream, but that is not to say I thoroughly dislike them because I find the movies to be crap. From a genre perspective. my reasons for not being a fan of horror is completely different to me not being a complete fan of romantic comedies. I don't enjoy most of them because they are gag-inducing, mawkish. Yet with horror, it's more to do with the scaring people aspect, and I avoiding watching movies that are really, really scary. 

With the Shaun of The Dead, both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have managed to achieve something that is not only surreal, out of the ordinary and imaginative, but they have produced a horror-comedy fusion film that is not only consistently amusing, inventive, original and at times, gruesome, but one that can be easily enjoyed by pretty much anyone or everyone, especially those like myself who are scared witless by horror films in general. 

It's cleverness is never meant to make fools and idiots out of the audience, and yet its simpleness never takes away from its creative approach. 

Our main hero is in the form of a so-called loser named Shaun, who eventually becomes a hero at the end of the film, with the help of his mates who succeed and survive against all the odds against the ever descending zombies. 

On first viewing, the plot is extremely complicated to understand but once you watch the film, you don't really think much of it, and when that happens, that isn't detrimental, nor have an effect on one's viewing experience. There are some good moments like the characters taking out the zombies using various objects and such and the amusing dream sequences. 

Comparing Shaun of the Dead to something like Scary Movie is like David verses Goliath: Scary Movie is arguably one of the most overrated movie franchises, ever that resorts to cheap parody for laughs, such as a loser guy who farts in his own underpants. Unlike Scary Movie, this film has a plausible plot and story that it successfully sticks with and addresses at the end of the film, whilst at the same time delivering the well-written gags and humour. The humour may be quintessentially British, but even speaking as a Brit, anyone can enjoy this film and its humour and understand it: it's more so cheeky than sarcastic and dead-pan and is deeply rooted in aspects of British life and our cultural norms, as one would say. 

The film also shows the survivors and main protagonist characters still trying to get on with their daily lives and have a bit of nice, friendly banter with each other - just because you are chased by zombies doesn't mean you can't stop talking about what was on TV last night. But also to work together as a team and to take out the zombies, one by one. I also think it was a good idea for them to battle the zombies by using objects as weapons such as snooker cues and gardening spades, rather than with knives, swords and guns. 

Regarding the gore aspect, it's not overly or excessively gory and bloody and just right for me to tolerate and bare in small and equal doses. Whereas the performances are brilliant: Simon Pegg in particular was great as is his compatriot, Nick Frost - both of whom would later team up for the follow-up, Hot Fuzz

Shaun of the Dead plays out like an extended episode of a sitcom that also plays out as a semi-serious survival horror; yet watching this reminds of 2015's British/American offering, Spy: that film has that British type of humour in a Hollywood produced spy comedy movie. This effort doesn't really feel like a typical and conventional horror film, and this makes it accessible for people like myself. One user described Shaun of the Dead as a romantic comedy masquerading as a horror film. I'd say it is a screwball-ish clever comedy that masquerades as a horror film, that has honesty and is earnest in its own right, but is also not a film that is unintentionally laughable. Shaun of the Dead's success was so huge that 5 years later, a U.S offering titled Zombieland came out, which virtually has the same premise but with different characters, set in the South West of America. 

Final Verdict:

Around 90% of horror films follow the same conventions and tropes and formula, so much so its predictability level is high, but here with Shaun of the Dead it gives that tried and tested formula a different spin that is such a warm welcome to the genre. Funny and amusing, whimsical yet witty, this is a horror comedy with a difference where its approach is unlike anything you have seen before.

It manages to be credible, believable and ridiculous but not too OTT at the same time: for all the seriousness and gory scenes there is humour that helps alleviate it, and this humour is not of the cheap kind as featured in Scary Movie. The comedy doesn't resort to going down the farcical, easy route and whilst the film is unintentionally laughable, Shaun Of The Dead's entertainment aspect and plot in tackling the zombie theme doesn't descend into utter daftness. 

Shaun of the Dead is the most unlikeliest of horror movies you will ever see (even if Zombieland did come out years after - yet 'Shaun' was the first and foremost), but give it a chance and you will realise its earnest & light-hearted approach will make you see Horror films in a slightly different light that is good. And one that will appeal to people who are usually squeamish at the sight of overly excessive amounts of gore.  

Worth checking out. 


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