99 minutes 18 seconds
Zombies Comedy Romance Horror Action
Trivia George Romero has seen the film and 'loves it'.
Specially designed packets of 'Hog Lumps' were designed for the film by Edgar's brother, Oscar.
Universal reportedly requested some of the heavier gore-scenes to be cut in order to guarantee a 15 Certificate
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Shaun of the Dead (2004)
8th Apr 04
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is at a low point in his life. His dead-end job sucks, he hates his step-dad, his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) is dragging him down, and to make matters worse, he has just been dumped by his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield).
Determined to take control of his life - 'Go round mum's... Get Liz back.. .Sort life out' - his plans are put on hold when flesh-eating zombies take over the streets of London.
There is only one thing to do. Round up his friends, his ex-girlfriend and his parents, and find somewhere safe until the whole thing blows over.
As huge fans of all things zombie, it’s perhaps an understatement to say that Eatmybrains had high hopes for this film. Not least because it promised to be one of the best horror comedies for years, but also because we had all been involved in some manner in the making of the film way back in June last year.
Zombies! Comedy! London! From the team behind ‘Spaced’! Surely it couldn’t be anything other than brilliant.
Happily it’s just that. A fantastic cult film that is destined to be seen again and again and again.
We finally caught the film at its Prince Charles preview screening in London, three days before the general release. Co-writers Edgar Wright (Director) and Simon Pegg (the titular Shaun) took to the stage to rapturous applause, informing us that this had been the fastest selling preview screening in the cinema’s history. Clearly we were not the only ones in the audience with high expectations.
The film opens in a pub, with beers, fags, hog lumps, fruit machines and being with friends that we don’t like that much. Twenty seconds in and the first laughs erupt from the audience. We can relax, clearly in safe hands. This is London as we know it, and it all feels comfortably real.
An hour into the film and we’re convinced that this film is the best horror-comedy ever made. The comic pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Ed) is first class, as we follow Shaun through his typical day of Playstation, work, humiliation, finally ending with a failed table booking resulting in Shaun being dumped by his girlfriend. Along the way, we are treated to creepy glimpses of menacing events in the background. Footage of military soldiers, radioactive-suited investigators and panicked government spokesmen filter through the television screens on display.
Drowning their sorrows in the pub at the end of the night, Ed tries to help Shaun with the words, ‘Cheer up, it’s not the end of the world’. Oh yes it is….
From this point on, Com meets Zom as the real horror of what is happening hits home. Finally aware – more through the television than what he witnesses around him (bloody handprints on the fridge in the newspaper shop, being accosted by a homeless zombie, dead people in the street) – Shaun and Ed realise what is happening as their house is invaded by three zombies.
A hilarious set-piece follows, involving a huge hulking zombie and a checkout girl zombie (read Issue 1384 of 2000AD for back stories to these two zombies) in the backyard, with a great hole through the body shot, flying mug trees, and frantic debates on the quality of records by The Stone Roses, Prince and Dire Straits. Finally managing to defeat the attacking flesh-eaters, the film takes on a ‘Survival’ theme as Shaun makes moves to ‘rescue mum, get Liz back, and find somewhere safe to hole up – namely their local – The Winchester Tavern.
The first hour is, in the words of the script, a slice of pure fried gold. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play off each other perfectly, providing the film with some of its biggest laughs, from the subtle (slipping on blood in the newsagent) to the fart gag (“I’m sorry Shaun,”). The comedy ranges from wonderfully quotable one-liners (“Player 2 has left the game”) to visual background gags (check out the couple necking in the background when Shaun and Ed leave the pub on the first night).
Structurally too the first hour is perfect. The build-up to the zombies is expertly balanced to achieve both the right amount of tension and comedy, ensuring that the zombies are seen both as scary and rubbish. Based on the Romero zombies of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, the zombies of Shaun of the Dead look great in their blood-stained brain-dead shuffling (and we’re not just saying that because we’re in it, honest!)
Losing some of the cultural references of Spaced is to its’ advantage, although of course there are in-jokes – Fulci’s restaurant, Foree Electronics, ‘We’re coming to get you Barbara’ ‘ ...not due to rage-fuelled monkeys’, but they supplement rather than drive the comedy.
Coming from a TV background, the film does remain more TV-oriented than film, through its constant use of it as the primary means of entertainment, whether through the Playstation or as a channel-flicking device between the TV shows and news reports. However, the editing is slick, and the music in the film is inspired,
Unfortunately things slightly unravel towards the end when the main cast reach the ‘safety’ of The Winchester. By this time, some of the supporting characters are struggling with underwritten roles, (the bond between Shaun and his girlfriend Liz is never really established on screen, and a subplot involving unrequited feelings of love from another member of the cast don’t really play out too well), and the serious emotional turn in the script doesn’t quite come off as well as hoped. It’s unfortunately a case of;
Rom – err.. no not really.
Slight niggles aside; this is primarily a comedy with zombies. And on those counts it a dazzling display of comic-horror genius. With this film, Neil Marshall’s intended ‘zombies-aboard-oil-rig’ script currently in development, as well as Chris Cunningham working feverishly away on his own scary-sci-fi project, things are indeed looking up for the British horror film.
Have a banana!
Versions The cinema print runs at 99 minutes 18 seconds. Reportedly 7 minutes of deleted scenes will feature on the DVD, due to be released in the UK in October 2004.
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