Friday, October 24, 2008

October 24th: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Spoilers ahead. Fair warning.

I've had four years to think about this, and I think I'm well within my rights to say so, so I'm going to say it. I firmly believe Shaun of the Dead is one of the best movies ever made. Not just one of the best comedies, horror films, parodies, or zombie films. It's all of those too. But there's much more to Shaun of the Dead than any of those four things.

All the best zombie films have some sort of allegorical target in mind. In Dawn of the Dead it was the consumer culture. In 28 Days/Weeks Later, it was military intervention during times of crisis. With Shaun of the Dead, it's the entire notion of desensitization. Shaun is completely absorbed by his own little microcosm that he doesn't even notice the zombie epidemic until one wanders in through his front door. The rest of the movie is about Shaun's journey out of the Platonic cave. Call me crazy, but I definitely see it. The movie also deals in binaries; in other words the movie tossing out dualities and repeated lines and incidents like they were candy, which also keeps with the notion of breaking Shaun out of his stupor.

(Few people I know realize that Shaun and Ed are singing a Grandmaster Flash song in this scene. And badly.)

Having said that, on a purely visceral level Shaun of the Dead is incredibly emotional. Sure, it plays as a romantic comedy, but it really is more of a horror film. The fact that the characters are so well-rounded through the movie's humor only makes the film's key death scenes exponentially more poignant. I'm not gonna lie. I still shed a tear when Shaun and Liz ultimately abandon Ed in the basement of the Winchester.

I got to see Shaun of the Dead opening day in theaters. Then, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd seen. Plus, I was still getting into the whole zombie genre; didn't yet know all the ins and outs like I do now. After repeat viewings, and with much respect to George A. Romero's Dead series (more on those to come...), I've decided that Shaun of the Dead is the best. It's gory, it's emotional, it's stylish, and it's hilarious. Shaun of the Dead is everything I could possibly want in a movie, let along a horror movie.

(Something I didn't notice until just tonight: The guy in the yellow hat is none other than Tyres from Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright's TV series Spaced.)

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