Shaun of the Dead is one of those rare parody films that’s a classic addition to the very genre it’s making fun of.
The dead rise again…but it takes forever for Shaun to even notice. This one bit should sum up the attitude of this movie for you, as it influences every nuance and gag that’s used. Parodying (and paying homage to) classics in the zombie and horror genre, such as Romero’s “Dead” series, Evil Dead, Lucio Fulci’s films, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and more, Shaun of the Dead is like a greatest hits album of your favorite horror movie memories. The plot, much like any zombie film, has a romantic web tangled into it, and for once, the audience will actually care! The chemistry between all of the actors is top notch, as their personalities and quirks seem to compliment each other quite well. Will Shaun stay with his woman? Will their friends overcome the problems in their own relationship? Like I said, standard stuff, but it’s done so well that you really want it to work out for everyone beyond just surviving.
Blood appears in a LOT of scenes, but usually it’s seen just as makeup on the zombies. There’s very little actual gore, except for one scene where a character gets completely ripped apart from groin to gullet, much like the biker scene towards the end of Dawn of the Dead. The makeup effects are what you would expect from a mid-budget zombie production (the film cost £4 million, according to Wikipedia), and although none of it will gross you out, everything looks like it was crafted with precision and care. I personally would have liked to have seen a bit more gore, but what’s there works well enough. Besides, just like some other zombie movies out there, Shaun of the Dead is very character-driven, so it’s possible the filmmakers thought more gore might distract from character and plot development. It’s also possible they wanted to keep what gore they had at a higher level of quality, so they had to reduce the actual quantity.
The gags in this movie are EVERYWHERE, from Shaun walking down the street as zombies ravage everything around him, to the two main characters calmly thumbing through a record collection trying to find albums they don’t mind throwing at the zombies. The cultural references transcend horror movies, and branch out to many other interests. The posters in Shaun’s house, the kind of music he and his roommate listen to when drunk (they spin some pretty sick sounding Electro), the video game references…it’s clear that they weren’t just going for the zombie audience with this one. They do a great job of tying it all together though, as it’s all presented naturally throughout the course of the characters’ daily lives instead of being shoved in your face. The best part about the way this film is done is that you could miss every cultural reference in it, and still have a great time; we watched it this weekend with one of Brittnie’s family members who had never seen it, and who knew almost nothing about the horror genre or geek culture, and she still thought it was hysterical.
If you enjoy horror movies, funny movies, interesting characters, a witty script, or something with a large variety of cultural references in it combined with excellent production values and fantastic editing, I highly recommend you watch Shaun of the Dead. Just don’t expect a gore-fest, and you’ll have a great time.