Posted: 04/10/04
© 2004
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
by Jerome De Groot

Ever felt like you were surrounded by zombies? The producers call this one a "RomZomCom."

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Why are we so interested in Zombies at the moment? I'm tempted to think that it is a culturally cyclical thing - that the last two upsurges in Zombie movies, the Bodysnatching of the 50s and Romero in the late 70s both represented a fear of the mob, of the faceless degradation of the Zombie rather than the individualised terror of the Vampire. Romero, particularly, was interested in the cultural ideologies of the Zombie, setting Dawn of the Dead (1978) in a suburban shopping mall. The dead-eyed, shuffling mob groaning and baying for food is a rich metaphor and it dramatises contemporary consumerised, globalised society as well now as it did then.

Irreverent, referential, reverential even - Simon Pegg and Edgar's new version of the Zombie movie plays on this versioning of the Zombie as someone who, frankly, could be sitting next to you on the bus. London is portrayed as a town in which the undead walk the streets looking for meaning - much like before they died. Central character Shaun (Pegg) is a deadbeat sales assistant with a commitment problem and a collection of shady mates. The undead that appear are not so much terrifying as inevitable - they don't invade or contaminate, like Dracula or the 'infected' of 28 Days Later, they simply keep on going until your resistance is drained. Life is pretty depressing in this film, helped only by wodges of electro and beer.

Ah, beer - therein lies one of the main issues this film might have with gaining as wide an audience as it no doubt deserves. It is such a British film, in fact such a London film, that a large number of the jokes and asides will simply be lost in translation. But I hope not. The film is snappy, fast, highly funny and densely allusive. As the first feature by a team that originally worked on a sitcom, Spaced, that referred constantly to films there was a fear that it might be too slight for the big screen, but thankfully that is not the case. The script is tight and has enough one-liners and bizarre insights to keep you guessing; the plot is allusive and generically self-conscious without being overly smug. Antecedents would be Evil Dead and An American Werewolf in London, smart films with good laughs but some substance.

Anyways, the plot, such as it is, consists of Shaun and his friends/girlfriend/
mother under assault from a range of unpleasant undead who have come from nowhere literally overnight to overwhelm London. Some of the funniest moments involve the knockabout comedy as Shaun and co. attempt to find ways of killing the Zombies off - records through the forehead a particularly cute move. It is slick and sharp, not pausing for breath but dashing on to the next good bit, only slightly let down by something of a rushed ending (that actually feels more sitcommy than the rest of the film). Brilliantly funny and highly satisfying, particularly to the inner horror nerd in you, go see if you can.

Jerome de Groot is a writer and professor in England.  

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