Shaun of the Dead
A flawless romantic zombie comedy
Horror and comedy have crossed paths in the movies many times over the years. Most of them fall into well-deserved obscurity. Two stand out in my mind as masterpieces: Dr. Strangelove and Evil Dead 2. It’s time to add another title to that list; Shaun of the Dead.
Shaun has a day to prove to his girlfriend that he is not a total loser, and he blows it. Instead, he ends up getting drunk and commiserating with his roommate Ed at their favorite pub, oblivious to the blaring news reports and military vehicles and sirens streaming past outside.
Eventually, current events become too real to ignore, and Shaun and Ed realize they’re living in a zombie movie. The two zombies that wandered into their yard wouldn’t let up until Simon and Ed used a shovel and a cricket bat to kill them. It’s kind of thrilling, like their video game, but it’s also kind of sickening.
One of the hallmarks of a good horror film — including Romero’s original zombie films — is that it reveals humanity’s reaction to horror. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was a biting, satirical look at the growing materialism and mall culture of the 1970s.
Shaun of the Dead says that this generation can’t be bothered with current events; it’s somebody else’s problem, and besides, my girl just dumped me. It’s not so much that Shaun’s generation is selfish or shallow (although there’s probably some of that too), rather it’s that they assume they can’t change the world. News is what happens to other people, important people. Clerks and the unemployed just don’t feel empowered enough to be a part of the world.
Shaun also makes the point that many of the lower-paid workers in Western cities are practically zombies anyway. Demeaning, unimportant jobs leave them numb, and all some employers want is a body without a soul or a brain to get in the way of work, work, work.
Shaun of the Dead is not the funniest movie ever, nor is it the scariest. But within the multiple boundaries of a “rom zom com” (romantic zombie comedy), Shaun of the Dead is flawless. (M. Mapes, Movie Habit)
Shaun of the Dead
Tue October 31, 7:30 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium
UK, 2004, in English, Color, 99 min, Rated R, 35mm • official site