J.D. Lafrance
Shaun of the Dead DVD Review

Shaun of the Dead

June 27, 2005

Director: Edgar Wright, ,
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis, Bill Nighy, Peter Serafinowicz, Penelope Wilton, Mark Donovan, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Rafe Spall, Jessica Stevenson, Garry Tubbs, Julianne Watling, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Whenever the horror genre becomes bloated with safe, CGI-heavy Hollywood product, a small, independent feature comes from seemingly out of nowhere to shake things up. Shaun of the Dead (2004) is just that film. Riding the recently successful, wave of zombie movies, this little import from England gleefully skewers and celebrates so many horror films that came before it.

Shaun (Pegg) and Ed (Frost) are best friends. Shaun works a dead-end job selling appliances while Ed is a couch potato with no direction in life—much to the chagrin of their roommate. Shaun and Ed spend most of their time in the pub which doesn’t sit too well with Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz (Ashfield), who wants him to get out and live life. When he screws up a dinner reservation, it’s the final straw for Liz and she breaks up with him.

Ed consoles his buddy at the local pub. Many drinks later, they leave drunk out of their heads and oblivious to a growing zombie menace. The running gag for the first third of the movie is that Shaun and Ed don’t notice the increasing number of undead because they are so self-absorbed with their own lives. When their first zombie encounter happens they assume that it’s a drunk and not one of the legions of the undead. Shaun and Ed finally get their act together and head out to rescue Liz and Shaun’s mum.

Shaun of the Dead does an excellent job of gradually introducing the zombie threat. We hear an odd news radio report or catch a glimpse of something on TV. Someone runs frantically away from someone or something. Finally, we see a zombie trying to eat a flock of birds. Like the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), this movie takes great pains to root the characters in reality so that what happens later is all the more terrifying. Although, in the case of Shaun of the Dead, humour plays a significant role as well.

There are many funny bits throughout the movie. For example, Shaun and Ed go through their vinyl record collection and pick out ones to use on two approaching zombies. The Stones Roses’ Second Coming is a keeper but Prince’s Batman soundtrack is tossed.

Anyone versed in the horror genre will immediately recognize that this movie was made by die-hard fans—especially well-versed in zombie-lore. They go for old school George Romero zombies and adhere to the rules of his movies as opposed to the sped-up dead of recent films, like Resident Evil (2002) and the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004).

Special Features

“Simon Pegg’s Video Diary” shows pre-production zombie make up tests and on-the-set footage of the movie being made.

“Casting Tapes” is footage of some of the actors who were cast in the film auditioning for the movie.

“Edgar and Simon’s Flip Chart” features the two screenwriters taking us through an elaborate outline for the movie.

“SFX Comparison” shows how they achieved the first zombie gore effect in the movie and the gunshot wound to the head in the climatic pub finale.

“Make Up Tests” is a brief clip of make up tests on various zombie extras.

Not surprisingly, the filmmakers are big fans of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1979) and drew upon it for inspiration. The cast and crew also talk about the characters in this “EPK Featurette.”

“Zombie Gallery” features behind-the-scenes photos, poster designs and the 2000 AD comic book which provides a prologue to the movie.

Also included is a theatrical trailer.

“TV Bits” features more footage of the TV segments shown at the end of the film, including a funny interview with two of the members from Coldplay who are playing the Zombaid festival for zombie rights.

“Missing Bits” includes a “clean” version of a scene from the movie that is funny because of the absurd substitutes for curse words. There is also a scene that Pegg does imitating Michael Caine’s distinctive voice. Three plot holes in the film are humourously addressed. Also included is a fairly amusing and lengthy outtake reel.

You can also watch the movie simultaneously with the storyboards for it or with the Zomb-O-Meter enabled, which provides subtitled factoids and trivia.

Finally, there are two audio commentaries. The first one is by actor and co-writer Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. This is a funny, informative track as Wright points out the many nods to other films and recounts several production anecdotes.

The second audio commentary is by the cast and includes Pegg, Nick Frost, Dylan Moran, Kate Ashfield and Lucy Davis. They joke and talk about their experiences on the movie on this very conversational and frivolous track.

Shaun of the Dead is a funny, smart romantic zombie comedy in the same vein as Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992). While it is not as inventive (or as bloody), it is very entertaining. The filmmakers wisely chose not to make an out-and-out comedy which ensures its longevity because there is much more going on than simple sight gags and quotable dialogue.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 91%



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