Movie: Shaun of the Dead
Production Companies: Studio Canal, WT2 Productions, Big Talk Productions
Director: Edgar Wright
Producer: Nira Park
Scriptwriters: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Main Cast: Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton
Release Date: April 9th 2004 (UK)
Running Time: 99 minutes
Aah yes, the film which helped launch Edgar Wright’s filmmaking career. Whilst you could (correctly) argue Hot Fuzz is a better film, you never forget your first and what a first film. Shaun of the Dead is stupidly entertaining, with an excellent cast and a wonderful pun title. So, without further ado here is my review of the film.
The film opens in Crouch End, London with struggling electronic salesman: Shaun (Pegg). He gets disrespected by his colleagues, isn’t respected by his stepfather Philip (Nighy) and is dumped by his girlfriend Liz (Ashfield). Obviously, the solution is to get drunk with his best friend, Ed (Frost), at their favourite pub: The Winchester. Once they get home, their housemate Pete yells at Ed and berates Shaun into getting his life together. All of this takes place while Pete has a bite mark on his hand…..
The zombie apocalypse begins
By the morning, a zombie apocalypse has engulfed London. Obviously feeling the effects of the drinking, Shaun and Ed are too hungover to notice until a pair of zombies break into their garden. Shaun and Ed beat them to death with a shovel and cricket bat. Only then do they decide to come up with a plan to rescue Barbara (Wilton), Shaun’s mum. Oh, they also plan to rescue Liz and the end goal is wait for the crisis to end in the Winchester. The plan starts well when they escape in Pete’s car and then pick up Barbara and Philip. Only problem is that Philip has been bitten.
Arriving at the Winchester
Obviously having a zombie in the car is far from ideal so the gang ditch it and sneak through the London neighbourhood. Here, they run into friends and escape the zombie horde by imitating them. Luckily they make it to the Winchester where Barbara reveals she has been bitten. However, in a somewhat wholesome moment Barbara gives Liz and Shaun’s relationship her approval. Awww…. David, Liz’s friend, attempts to shoot Barbara until Shaun stops him, which naturally starts an argument about David liking Liz or something. Heartbreakingly, Shaun then has to shoot his reanimated mother.
The Horde catches up
Even worse for Shaun and the gang, zombies finally break into the pub and kill David. Oh, his girlfriend Dianne rushes into the horde in an act of revenge (or stupidity) getting herself killed. The now zombified Pete then emerges and bites Ed, before Shaun shoots and kills Pete. Shaun, Liz and Ed take refuge behind a now flaming bar before retreating into the cellar. Oh, Shaun also has only two bullets left. He and Liz then contemplate suicide whilst Ed says he will valiantly be eaten by the horde. Luckily, the British Army turns up to save the day.
Six months later, civilization has returned to normal with Liz and Shaun moving in together. Also, Ed is chained up in the shed and Shaun now plays video games with him.
Editing in Shaun of the Dead
To begin my analysis of Shaun of the Dead, I’m going to discuss the editing that is such a staple of the Cornetto trilogy. Now, what sort of editing am I referring to? See the planning of Shaun and Ed’s idea to save Liz and Barbara. This sort of very quick, rapid transition editing makes what is nominally quite a standard scene into a far more memorable one. Evidence of this is how quickly Shaun and Ed change ideas, with the initial plan just involving Barbara before involving Liz and her friends as well as Philip.
Another example is when Shaun and Ed arrive at Barbara and Philip’s house and discuss the plan again. Wright injects even more comedy via the two men bickering over who is going to go first in case there are zombies. Oh, also the section where Ed really wants to drive Philip’s Rolls Royce is brilliant as well. While that last point may not specifically relate to the editing, it goes to show how Wright injects his editing with comedy.
How Shaun of the Dead satirises other films
Continuing my Shaun of the Dead analysis, I’m going to discuss how the film satirises other genres. And for this point look no further than the film’s poster. Literally, the tagline for the film is ‘a romantic comedy with zombies’. More evidence of this is provided when we first hear Shaun talking to Liz. Here we see Wright satirising the rom-com with the lovable slacker (Shaun) desperately trying to keep the girl who maybe deserves better (Liz). This adds a layer of relatability to Shaun as because of how rom-coms work, we want to see him get the girl.
Another example of Shaun of the Dead satirising other genres is the disaster movie. An example of this is when Liz, Shaun and Ed are trapped in the Winchester’s cellar. Here, Ed parodies disaster films when he offers to sacrifice himself in order to allow his best friend to live on, albeit without him. Further parody is when the British Army turn up and save the day, leaving Ed to just become Shaun’s best zombie friend. It’s somewhat wholesome to see Ed live on albeit as a zombie…
Laying the groundwork for the Cornetto Trilogy
To conclude my Shaun of the Dead analysis, I’m going to discuss how the film lays the groundwork for the rest of the Cornetto Trilogy. As I’ve mentioned above, the editing in Shaun of the Dead lays the foundation for Hot Fuzz and At World’s End editing through the rapid transitions and injections of comedy. Another example of the groundwork of the Cornetto Trilogy is the reason why it is the Cornetto Trilogy.
If you don’t know how the Cornetto Trilogy got its name, it’s largely because of Shaun of the Dead. In a seemingly random scene, Shaun asks Ed if he wants anything from the shop, to which Ed responds by asking for a Cornetto. This little remark laid the groundwork for a trilogy of unrelated movies and also reinforced the idea that trilogies and universes of films don’t need massive overarching narratives to connect them. Thank you Shaun and that Cornetto.
To summarise Shaun of the Dead, this is a stupidly entertaining, comedic showcase of what was to come from Edgar Wright as well as just being a very funny film, in terms of satire and content.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good
Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning: Mild Sex and Nudity, Severe Violence and Gore, Severe Profanity, Moderate Frightening and Intense Scenes, Moderate Alcohol and Drugs References