Wednesday, October 27, 2010

31 days, 31 faves: Shaun of the Dead

Shaun has a problem. He woke up one morning and the world had been ravaged by zombies. Not your ordinary day, no doubt.

And so begins Shaun of the Dead (2004), a British horror (romantic) comedy directed by Edgar Wright and written by the film's two leads, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
My love for this film is near endless. The first time I saw it I knew it was going to be a horror staple at the Hadden home. Anytime I'm feeling melancholy, I throw this baby in the DVD player and presto! Instant happiness!

Shaun (Pegg) is a lackadaisical slacker salesman at Foree Electric. (Love that... Foree!) He's got no future in the dead-end position, but truth be told seems to like it that way.
He lives in an apartment (excuse me, flat) with his best mate, Ed (Frost), who is a big gob of goo with even less desire to have success in life than Shaun. His idea of fun is playing video games on the couch all day, farting, and making fun of their third roommate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), the only stable one of the bunch who's had more than enough of Ed not pulling his weight.

Shaun does have something going for him, a sexy girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield). Only trouble is, Liz is damn sick of hanging out at the local pub every night. When she asks Shaun to shake things up a bit instead of dragging her out to the Winchester all the time, he tells her he'll make reservations at an upscale restaurant and then promptly forgets to do so.

After having a fairly awful day at work listening to his younger co-workers make fun of him, Shaun gets a call from Liz, reminding him of their date. He immediately recalls the supposed restaurant reservations and calls to try to get a table. When they are full-up, he has to break it to Liz and suggests, once again, the Winchester.
Liz dumps his ass without hesitation, stating she needs to get on with her life but it's not going to be with him, obviously.

Shaun and Ed stay late into the night at the pub, commiserating over Shaun's breakup. Once back at the flat, they start playing hip-hop records ("It's Electro!) waaay to loud, waking up Pete who has a shouting fit, during which he mentions that he got mugged and the assailant bit him. He screams at Shaun to sort his life out and Shaun makes a pledge to do so.

Hungover the next morning, Shaun hobbles to the local store to get some soda and doesn't even notice no one is tending the store or the bloody hand prints on the cooler doors. He trudges home amidst a zombie outbreak without even realizing his neighbors have all turned into the undead.

He and Ed sit and watch television when they hear a news warning about people coming back from the dead and eating their friends and neighbors. Stressing that the public needs to keep all their doors and windows locked, Shaun and Ed gaze at each other, then the door, which they perpetually leave open. Getting a clue, they are shocked to see a girl wandering around in the garden. When they finally get her attention, she struggles with Shaun until he pushes her through a pipe sticking up out of the ground. Thinking he killed her (because obviously she has a huge hole through her gut now) they realize she's a zombie when she gets up like nothing happened. Another one shows up and the two guys try to stop them by tossing record albums at the zombie's heads (you really needed to be there, it's hilarious).

With no clue what to do, Shaun and Ed decide to head to the Winchester, agreeing that it may be the safest place to be. Shaun is determined to not only get Liz back, but to go to his mom's (Penelope Wilton) and pick her and hubby (Shaun's step-father) Phillip (Bill Nighy) up as well. Talking to his mom on the phone, he finds out zombies have bitten Phillip and it's possible they may have to kill him. Shaun goes over several incarnations of a plan before finally deciding to leave. They attempt to alert Pete, and at first they can't find him. But soon, zombie Pete makes himself known and the guys run out of the house and steal Pete's car.

Rushing over to his mom's, Shaun sees that Phillip has indeed been the victim of a zombie attack but he can't bring himself to off his step-dad. They drag him and Barbara (yep, they're coming to get you, Barbara!) with them in the car, Phillip struggling with painful injuries.
At Liz's flat, Shaun tries to beg Liz to come with him, but she is reluctant to do so and says she won't leave without her friends Dianne and David (Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran). After some convincing they all decide to go and all seven people shove into Phillip's Jaguar.

On the way, Phillip dies of his injuries and morphs into a zombie. Instead of just kicking him out of the car, the rest of the group gets out and leaves him there.

Now on foot and tramping through people's backyards (sorry, gardens) to get to the Winchester, they meet up with an old school mate of Shaun's and her motley crew, who in a hysterical sequence end up looking like the doppelgangers of Shaun's party. They all exchange greetings and start back on their way, hopping fences and darting through yards. In the craziness of the moment, Barbara thinks she notices a friend's house and gets momentarily left behind. Soon enough Shaun discovers her missing and they head back for her. (Shaun doesn't know yet, but she's been bitten and has decided to hide it).

Finally making it to the pub, the crowd of zombies is too ridiculously large to get through, so they all try their hand at making zombie moans and groans and start to lumber into the vicinity.
That works fine until Ed and Shaun get into an argument which attracts attention to the fact they are not dead. The zombies surround them and David panics, throwing a trash can through one of the windows. Shaun distracts the zombies on his own while the others sneak inside.
After several long minutes, Shaun reappears inside, telling them he was able to get by them without their noticing.

After a few hours of sheer boredom, Ed is playing a video game and makes enough noise to attract the zombies yet again.
Suddenly the old man that owns the pub shows up, a zombie himself, and Shaun, Ed, and Liz attack him with pool cues while the Queen song 'Don't Stop Me Now' plays in the background.

(Again, I really can't stress enough how effing hilarious this film is. You have to see it for yourself, you really do. My husband isn't crazy about horror, but he thoroughly loves this film, and with good reason!)

Anyway, the trio take out the pub owner but just as they do so, Barbara starts going downhill fast from her zombie bite. Miserable, Shaun makes a plea for her not to die, but alas...she succumbs. When David grabs the only gun (the one that is above the bar, natch!) to put Barbara down like a lame horse, both Shaun and Ed fight with him over wanting to do so. And even though Shaun ends up shooting his mother when she reanimates, he's furious with David and the two argue to the point that David loses all his senses and attempts to climb through the zombie riddled window. He's pulled apart limb by limb and organ by organ (just as in Day of the Dead) and Dianne is killed as well, trying to save him. During her death, the door is breached and the zombies break in.

Shaun, Liz, and Ed are left to fend for themselves, and though they attempt to light the bar on fire to scare the zombies away, they only succeed in slowing them down. Realizing their fate is at hand, Ed remembers a trap door to the basement and insists Shaun and Liz escape through it, because it has a door that leads to the street. Just as Shaun and Liz ponder their chances in a street full of zombies, the military arrives, as well as Shaun's school mate, who leads them away. Shaun and Liz go with her, hand in hand.

Six months later we are seeing a news report on "Z" day and the progress they have made trying to make the captured zombies useful to society.
We observe Liz and Shaun, now living at Shaun's flat, discussing what to so for the day - have some tea, watch some telly, and head to the Winchester (!) when Shaun tells her he's going to pop out to the garden for a bit. She warns him not to be too long, and when we see him open the shed door, we see Ed, zombified yet chained up, playing a video game. Shaun enters the game with him. Roll credits.

Chock full of fantastic one-liners you'll be quoting endlessly, Shaun of the Dead is a roller-coaster of satire and great horror movie homages. And it's one of the funniest movies I've ever had the pleasure of seeing.


Budd said...

excellent movie. The friend that he runs into is actually his flat mate from the series Spaced.

Don't forget to kill Phillip.

kdmonroe said...

Hi Christine! I have been following your blog for probably a year now. I too am fascinated with all things horror. I was so excited that you chose to write about Shaun of the Dead. It is in my top 5 favorite movies of all time! The acting by Pegg is outstanding. Kudos to you! Enjoy your week and have a fantastic Halloween!!!

Will Errickson said...

One of the best movies of the decade. Glad I got to see it in the theater when it played for about 5 minutes. Pure enjoyment beginning to end.

Cinema Du Meep said...

Shaun was a movie that I didn't really care for on it's initial viewing. Subsequent viewings however have made me really warm up to it to the point where I absolutely enjoy and appreciate the film. It's a lot better than any of the serious zombie movies we've been getting since 28 days later spread it's fast moving zombie virus into the genre.