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Thu September 23, 2004
Shaun of the Dead
See it in a theater before you turn into a potato watching it on your crumby couch.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The British penchant for understatement and the audience's perfect understanding of slackers mix to make zombie spoof "Shaun of the Dead" both funny and appropriate for a society that fosters couch potatoes and underachieving 29 year olds. So universal is the satire that Hollywood moviemaking and dear old mums are not spared.
Obviously from the title, George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" and numerous other zombie flicks are cannibalized as they rise themselves from the dead heap of old "B" movies to amuse audiences, and in this case, scare them as well. Director Edgar Wright, who has many British TV series in his resume, knows enough about contemporary 20-something working class blokes to amuse everyone.
Shaun (Simon Pegg), an electronics store employee, can't live up to the ambitious expectations of his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Most of his time is spent defending his authentic slacker roommate buddy, Ed (Nick Frost), who trashes the living room with junk food detritus and watches endless TV and games. Ed's comic ability at surprise flatulence or imitating an orangutan amuses and endears Shaun to him.
The fun comes when zombies begin roaming London streets and Shaun is so distracted by his own challenges that he doesn't see them. When he does, and he is called upon to act heroically, the Winchester Arms pub, a home for the guys and source of irritation for Liz, becomes home base against the armies of the night.
As in "Harold and Kumar," the humor is low, but the pace is leisurely enough not to force the satire, as "Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" did last year. The characters are fully "fleshed" enough to make us sympathetic to them, a remarkable feat for movies about zombies where characters are usually as undead themselves.
(By the way, if you want a real contemporary zombie flick, see`28 Days Later,' by British director Danny Boyle [`Trainspotting']. It is the best horror/zombie film since George Romero's `Night of the Living Dead, and maybe better.)
Zombie conventions are fully lampooned in "Shaun of the Dead"; George Romero would approve. It's funny stuff, so see it in a theater before you turn into a potato watching it on your crumby couch.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.