Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shaun of the Dead

I don't know anything about zombie movies. It's a somewhat gigantic gap in my film expertise, but I've never been really inclined to fill it. It's simple really, I've got a distaste for excessive gore, and for the most part the people I knew who were into the zombie films would hype them up based on the gore and the totally awesome violence. So, while I liked action movies with car crashes and stuff with cool and glossy shooting styles (I've mentioned being a Bond fan?), gore just turned me right off. It's a shame that, because I love Shaun of the Dead, and I probably don't get most of the jokes.

"But Devin, you handsome devil you, why would you watch Shaun of the Dead, a zombie movie featuring zombies?" Ah, but you see, while I'm a zombie movie neophyte, I have a deep and undying love of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. It started with Hot Fuzz, a love letter/parody of glossy action movies. I like those! It was clever, it was silly, and it poked fun at action movies while simultaneously being a damn good action movie. So, I went back and watched Spaced, which was a fantastic sitcom, filled with clever references to all sorts of things that the creators clearly loved. So it only makes sense that I watch Shaun of the Dead, no matter how little I know about zombies.

So with Shaun of the Dead, we get Simon playing Shaun, who is basically Tim from Spaced, a lovable slacker who goes to the pub every night. His girlfriend is getting tired of his lovable slackerosity, as girlfriends tend to do in these kinds of movies, and is especially sick of his fat slob best friend played by Nick Frost. Eventually, she breaks up with him, and then zombies show up, proving once and for all that the best cure for any relationship troubles is hordes of the living dead.

This is a fantastic action movie apart from being a fantastic parody of a doubtlessly fantastic genre I know absolutely nothing about. I bet there were all sorts of incredibly clever references to the films of George Romero, or other Zombie things. Unfortunately, I haven't got a clue what any of those are. What I do know is that the script is very well thought out, and there are all sorts of moments of subtle foreshadowing that almost always pays off brilliantly. Almost everything that happens before the zombie hordes has a payoff later in the film. Stuff like a jukebox suddenly starting up with a sad song during an emotional moment eventually leads to the frankly brilliant Queen-based zombie beating sequence. The clever little callbacks reward viewers for paying attention, and strengthen the already great jokes.

More than being a great movie, more than being funny and clever and constantly entertaining, more than providing lots of great action and thrills and whatnot, Shaun of the Dead convinces me that maybe there's something to these zombie movies that I've managed to avoid all my life. But then again, could they be as good as this? I'm still not sold on the gore, and I probably wouldn't have liked it nearly as much if it wasn't so hilarious on top of being action packed and whatnot. Regardless, I imagine that I'm going to have to see a George Romero movie now. Edgar and Simon, you've sold me.

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