OK, so zombies are big these days. Huge, in fact. Fictional and historical characters have taken up the eternal battle against the undead with great success. But what if you were a 20-something slacker and the Day dawned?
Shaun is the classic underachiever. In fact, the greatest triumph of his life is probably living away from his mom and despised stepfather. He’s in a dead-end job (and all his younger co-workers openly laugh at him), he’s drifting through a relationship with girlfriend Liz, and he’s stuck between his hard-charging roommate Pete and doper/gamer Ed, his best friend and the third roomie in the flat. When Liz dumps him, Shaun decides to change his ways. Unfortunately (fortunately?), the zombie outbreak has preceded Shaun’s resolution, and Shaun is forced to make more drastic changes than even he had imagined.
The script does a great job balancing the horror of increasing zombie attacks and the humor of Shaun’s attempts to be a hero. The funniest part of the film (to me) was a scene in which Shaun goes out to run an errand and blithely walks past scenes of mayhem. But he quickly comes to understand that he’s surrounded by a catastrophe and begins to improvise weapons in the face of zombie attacks. (Another funny scene has Ed and Shaun arguing over which sentimental objects are OK to use in their battles.) But that humor is underlined with background images that leave the viewer uncertain and off-balance—is that a couple kissing in the shadows of a phone booth, or a hickey going drastically wrong? Are those kids playing tag or is It one of Them?
Shaun of the Dead occupies an enviably unique spot in the movie realm: a horror film that is truly comic, a comic film that is truly horrific. There are moments of revelation as well, including impossible decisions that Shaun and his friends must make to survive. I don’t know that you could truly say that Shaun grows up, but at least he finds his niche, no matter how bizarre that niche may be.
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