Film reviews

Shaun of the Dead, Dir; Edgar Wright, Cert; 15

This could have and should have been brilliant. The premise of the crew who made the science-fiction-comedy series Spaced doing a horror film was sweet. The story sounded ironically excellent; Shaun (Simon Pegg), a social loser who is looked down upon by everyone including his employees, gets his chance to show his integrity when a zombie epidemic takes over London. This should have been England’s answer to Young Frankenstein but sadly what has been produced is something muddled.

The first few acts before the zombies appear are first-rate. Shaun and his friends go about their daily lives, sleepwalking to work and routinely stumbling back. Much like the original Dawn of the Dead the entertainment here lies in satire. The film mocks the lack of mental power that many people have, measuring them up to mindless zombies. The unfolding epidemic is subtly played out with some amusing background moments; a kissing couple who don’t quite appear to be all they seem, a tramp who’s taking a bite out of a pigeon, a ‘drunk’ man who’s moaning and stumbling towards Shaun outside the pub. There is one brilliant moment where our hero walks to the shop to buy a drink without ever noticing the horde of zombies outside. Like the source material this film is lampooning, the regular humans are just as mindless as the zombies themselves. This is black comedy at its sarcastic best. However, these scenes begin to crawl and repeat themselves. They become a hindrance to the second act – the explosion of zombies.

The second act is a completely different film altogether. After battling a couple of zombies in his garden Shaun realises that there is something adrift so off he goes to rescue his girlfriend, her housemates and his mother. They escape to the local pub, The Winchester. This is where the film starts to really lose momentum. The laughs make way for straight horror but after watching the comical first half hour, it isn’t particularly fitting. It’s not scary or well done either. These violent scenes of fighting off zombies and trying to stay alive just drag on and on and have absolutely no redeeming qualities to them apart from one gory instance that rivals Day of the Dead for blood and guts. There are several ‘serious’ moments, particularly one moment where our hero has to make a choice that will change the course of the characters but these moments feel tacked on, much like the whole middle act, as if to tell the audience that they are trying to make a horror film. Thankfully the final act goes back to satirical comedy in what I consider to be the best part of the whole film.

Ultimately this is very disappointing. As black and scathing as the comedy is in the opening and closing, the clichéd horror elements are tedious and make the whole film confusing. It doesn’t know what it is trying to be. It rushes from comedy to spoof to self referential horror and can’t contain itself. The Spaced team should solely stick to television projects. 4/10

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