Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 horror-comedy film directed by Edgar Wright. It is the first film in a planned trilogy, with the middle film being Hot Fuzz, and the final titled The World’s End. All three films in the trilogy star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the former of which plays the serious character, while the latter plays one that is the dim-witted, fun-loving buddy. This time the pair take on zombies in an over the top comedy, filled with the blood and guts of any generic zombie film. What separates the film from these types of films is the way the characters act. They don’t act in a way that someone should if they were actually put in a zombie apocalypse. This can lead to some humorous scenes, but on the whole doesn’t really give the film a clear sense of direction.

Simon Pegg plays a man whose life is slowly falling apart. His housemate and best friend are disagreeing constantly, his job is lackluster, and his girlfriend left him. Sooner or later, a lucky coincidence happens, turning the majority of the population into zombies. Pegg’s character doesn’t immediately realize this, leading to some early laughs. Unfortunately for the film, it doesn’t keep up that level of humor from start to finish, with the scenes designed to make you laugh becoming fewer and farther between as the film reaches its conclusion.

Shaun of the Dead only really works as a comedy, and doesn’t work as all as a horror film. I’m well aware it isn’t supposed to be a true horror film, but I would have thought it would have played a bit more off the genre. Sure, there are some scenes where it has the characters pay little attention to the danger around them, but that’s about as far as it goes. Those scenes do make for some laughs, but they don’t actually happen all that often, and it would have been nice to parody the horror genre a bit more frequently.

Shaun of the Dead is ultimately a successful comedy with pseudo-horror elements.

There are a couple of things that do make Shaun of the Dead better than the follow-up film Hot Fuzz. First off, the over the top gore actually fits far better in a zombie flick than it does in a buddy cop film. When limbs are blown off, and blood gushes out, it actually fits the tone of the movie. It didn’t fit in Hot Fuzz, but in Shaun of the Dead, it doesn’t become distracting or bothersome. Another reason it ends up being a better film, is that it ends up being funnier. Shaun of the Dead made me laugh more than Hot Fuzz did. That’s about all I can say, as it ends up being mostly situational humor, meaning it’ll be a lot funnier to actually watch them film, rather than be told about the jokes. The final reason it ends up being a better film, is that the ending fits more with the feel of the film. It’s certainly more predictable, but it works better. In fact, the general feel of the ending is told early on in the film, but the specifics of it make it a much better one than the ending of Hot Fuzz.

Shaun of the Dead is ultimately a successful comedy with pseudo-horror elements. It gets off to a great start, and slowly loses steam throughout. For the most part, it’s still a funny film, and does slightly edge out its sequel, Hot Fuzz, in that regard. Its plot is fairly simple and straightforward, with the only real twist actually given away fairly early, as long as you pay close enough attention. It’s not an amazing film by any means, but can still be a good way to waste an hour and a half of your life. It’ll likely keep you fairly entertained, at least for the most part, and you’ll leave in a better mood than you went in with.

Conclusion: Shaun of the Dead is the funniest film in the Cornetto Trilogy.

Recommendation: A fun zombie romp, Shaun of the Dead is worth seeing.

Rating: ***1/2

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