Shaun of the Dead
Universal // R // $29.99 // December 21, 2004
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 30, 2004
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

After the series of horror films I've seen in the last few years ("Dawn of the Dead", etc), it's refreshing to see a horror parody that not only works, but works on other levels. The film focuses on Shaun (Simon Pegg), an average British guy who spends his time either in the pub or working in an electronics store with teenage co-workers. However, his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), is fed up with the nights hanging out in the pub with Shaun's flat-mate/best friend, Ed (Nick Frost) and wants something new. When Shaun forgets to make a dinner reservation that would celebrate their anniversary, Liz calls the whole relationship off.

Meanwhile, there are reports on the TV in the background of strange goings-on, which go completely ignored by our main characters. Shaun, so desensitized to his existence, travels the same route he does every morning, completely oblivious to things like the ominous stain on the freezer at the grocery store, or the puddle below it that he nearly slips on. Even when confronted with a couple of zombies, Shaun and his friends are really none the wiser. But, as the situation proceeds to get worse, the two finally realize that there's some seriously weird events going on outside.

The plan: Ed and Shaun will try and go to their car, drive to Shaun's mother's house, get her, drive to his now ex-girlfriend's house and get her (and end up taking her flat-mates along), then they'll all go to the pub and have a pint while they wait for things to calm down outside. As the group tries to make their way past the walking dead that are on patrol throughout the neighborhoods, Shaun has a wake-up call, and starts to become a (moderately) good leader on what will become known as "Z-Day" (Zombie Day).

The remarkable thing about the picture is that it operates on quite a few levels. The picture throws in some romantic comedy elements, parodies horror movies and yet, gets pretty scary and rather graphic at times - especially towards the end. There's even a couple of nice emotional moments, especially one from Shaun's stepdad (Bill Nighy), who tells him (after being bitten) about the potential he sees in Shaun. The performances are uniformly terrific and the dry humor really is hilarious at times. Despite having a rather low-budget, "Shaun" looks pretty good in all regards. "Shaun" certainly could have been a mess, but the picture manages to pull out a lot of laughs, get us rooting for and caring about the characters and finally, throw in a few tense moments, too.


VIDEO: "Shaun of the Dead" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is solid - no surprise from Universal, who has been doing pretty well lately with their recent theatrical releases on disc. Sharpness and detail are solid, as the picture consistently appeared crisp and clear, with fine details often apparent.

Edge enhancement was really not noticed during the presentation, nor were any occurances of pixelation. However, a few minor specks were spotted on the print used and the film seemed a tad grainy here-and-there (although the grain may be an intentional element of the cinematography.) Colors remained pretty subdued, but I'm guessing that's how the film was meant to look.

SOUND: "Shaun" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack isn't like a lot of the recent horror fare - most of the film offers rather front-heavy audio. As the film starts to boast a bit more action towards the end of the film, there are more chances for the surrounds to kick in, and the rear speakers do provide some decent information. Audio quality seemed fine, as the score/music seemed crisp and clear, as did dialogue and sound effects. Some may have a bit of trouble with the accents, though.

EXTRAS: The main supplement is a pair of commentaries - one from director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg, and the other from: cast members Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis and Kate Ashfield.

Next is a series of left-out bits, such "plot holes", which provides animated footage that answers some of the questions that viewers might have during the movie - such as "what happened when Shaun ran off?". In this section, we also find a series of "extended bits" (with audio commentary), and a pretty funny gag reel. We next find a series of full-length versions of some of the bits seen on TV in the film, such as the interview with the band Coldplay.

"Raw Meat" leads to a series of little pieces, such as "Simon Pegg's Video Diary", "Casting Tapes", "Make-Up Tests", an SFX piece and the film's EPK featurette. There's two additional options to watch with the movie: a storyboard comparison, which allows viewers to jump to an image of the scene's storyboard and then go back to the movie, as well as a subtitle trivia track. Finally, there's a production photo/poster gallery and the film's trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Shaun of the Dead" is an engaging and enjoyable blend of a few genres. I laughed a lot and, rare for a horror (or, in this case, horror-ish) movie, I cared about what happened to the characters. The movie offers superb performances, as well. Universal's DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality and a lot of solid supplements. A definite recommendation.

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