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Shaun of the Dead: SE

Universal // R // December 21, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by G. Noel Gross | posted December 27, 2004 | E-mail the Author
UPDATE 03/05: I'm bumping this up to a DVD Talk Collector Series rating. Why? Because the flick's just THAT good ... and I can.


Fast mo vs. Slow mo. That's been the most divisive issue to EVER confront zombiphiles. What isn't being debated, however, is the comic brilliance of gorehounds Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. The creators of the British anti-sitcom Spaced have done the undoable by masterfully cross-pollinating an honest-to-goodness romantic comedy with an old-school, flesh-gnawing, apocalyptic ZOMBIE epic. The result is so hysterical, so savvy in its nods to its forefathers that it transcends the very horror heritage it salutes. An utterly seamless blend of yuks and yucks made "for geeks, by geeks" that's so zombirific it's even earned the great George Romero's enthusiastic thumbs up.

Like many 29-year-olds, Shaun (Mr. Pegg) is a bit too fond of his PlayStation, wiles away more time than he probably should at his favorite watering hole -- The Winchester -- and generally sloughs off any honest effort to behave like a grown up. All of which now so "exacerbates" his girlfriend Liz's disillusionment with his Peter Pan antics that she suddenly calls it quits. How could the worst day of his life get, well, worse? Why, when the dead WALK, of course! Shaun and roomie Ed wake from a night of sorrow slogging to find Z-O-M-B-I-E-S prowling the premises and the two take to braining the ghastly devils on sight. Shaun favors a cricket bat. While Ed (Nick Frost) finds the business end of a garden spade works nicely. Then it's off to rescue the two most important women in Shaun's life: His mom (Penelope Wilton) and the gal who broke his heart only hours prior (Kate Ashfield). But where to go, where to go? Perhaps someplace where everybody knows your name? Where they're always glad you came? (Especially if they're dead -- and famished!) That's right, The Winchester!!! Therein crescendos a series of truly UNFORTUNATE events that renders sides splitting in more ways than one.

This is one of those rarified treats where simply nothing is out of place. Every joke is worded, couched and delivered in precisely the right way. Oodles of geek-friendly references slide across the screen with Tarantino finesse. Every cast member is pitch perfect. Especially Mr. Pegg whose Shaun is instantly endearing, intensely witty and equally at ease from broad slapstick to genuine despair. CineSchlockers should really eyeball Simon's plasticine mug -- his pre-expletive contortions and cartoonish yawns. It's as if Stan Laurel were reborn and compelled to bash in the brainpans of the undead. Reckon that'd make Mr. Frost's Ed the flatulent, gleefully inappropriate Oliver Hardy of the picture?

Naturally, while not exclusive to, this is a superb find for fans of wry British comedy. In fact, keep an eye peeled for an Office reunion of Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman! CineSchlockers will no doubt clamor for a sequel, but Wright and Pegg's zombie cameos in Romero's Land of the Dead will have to do for now. Next up for the fellas is the action/police spoof tentatively titled Hot Fuzz.

No breasts. 236 corpses (Give or take six billion). Accidental impalement. Undead mimicry. Cranial clobbering. Decapitation. Wild driving. Dart to the brainpan. Gratuitous Time Splitters 2 carnage. Neck noshing. Musical murdering. Boozing. Gratuitous 28 Days Later gig. Ape aping. Disembowelment. Zombie husbandry. Move busting. Gratuitous Mexican standoff. Our heroes make a familiar promise: "WE'RE COMING TO GET YOU, BARBARA!!!" But it's when faced with certain death that Shaun steps up to lead his tiny band: "As Bertrand Russell once said: 'The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation!' I think we can all appreciate the relevance of that now." David has had all he can stands and can't stands no more: "How can you put your faith in a man whose idea of a romantic night spot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing!?! This is a PUB!!!" Even Shaun's ever-faithful buddy Ed (a.k.a. Mr. TWO SECONDS!) has his momentary doubts: "Who died and made you King of the Zombies!?!"

That "for geeks, by geeks" thing comes in again extras wise. This single disc's better equipped with fan-minded embellishments than most two-disc hurrahs. In fact, it'd be a shoo-in for a "DVD Talk Collector Series" rating if not for a smattering of goodies that inexplicably failed to jump the pond. Beyond other more ancillary doodads, the absentees include a second on-set video journal and TWO MORE commentaries -- one by Shaun's mum and STEPdad, plus another by a game gaggle of zombie extras.

Fortunately, the animated menus recreating The Winchester made the trip, as did the heartiest of the two remaining commentaries. Co-writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg strike a breezy balance between silly banter and nuts 'n' bolts production insights. Though, their frequent citing of Spaced makes the series' absence on domestic DVD all too painful! In a separate reel, they truly pull back the curtain by sharing a pre-script, pre-production, pre-shooting flip chart packed with amusingly detailed brainstorming notes -- most of which were precisely translated to the screen. Well, except for the bit about Liz being a 34D. Speaking of Ms. Ashfield, she joins Simon, Nick Philips, Lucy Davis (Dianne) and Dylan Moran (David) for a cast track that's infectiously chummy and forgivably lean on revelations.

Surprising personal faves are three brief, yet brilliant "plot hole" segments that expound on the likes of just how Shaun managed to give an undead horde "the slip." Each are hilariously voiced by their subjects and vividly illustrated by Ed's brother Oscar. Simon's video diary delves into "Got red on you!" makeup FX sure to set CineSchlockers salivating, though the main course is probably the separate featurette devoted to the film's signature splatters. There's also a dedicated TV section that expands on the flick's channel surfing. Coldplay fans will especially giggle over Chris Martin's stumping for Zombaid! They've even crammed a subtitle track with nifty trivia such as music titles, movie references and the precise number of times the F-word is uttered. (Isn't that CapAlert's schtick?) Like the movie itself, the DVD continuously surprises in an endlessly entertaining way. Nicely done, c*#ts!

2004, 100 mins, 2.35:1 anam, DD 5.1, Two commentaries, Featurettes [35 mins], Bloopers [10 mins], Deleted and alternate scenes [22 mins], Plot holes, Trivia track, In-movie storyboard comparisons, Audition reels, Comic book stills, Extensive photo and poster gallery, U.S. trailer.

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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.
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