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05 January, 2008

DVD Review: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Title: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Year of Release—Film: 2004

Year of Release—DVD: 2004

DVD Label: Universal



THE MOVIE

Easily the best movie released in the past five or six years, SHAUN OF THE DEAD is one of those rare films that exceed all my expectations, surprising me with the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in a long time. At first glance, you’re tempted to dismiss it as just another Romero-inspired zombie movie; that was my initial impression of the film. Then I got the DVD and watched it. Any thoughts of this being “…just another zombie movie” were soon dashed from my mind with the first viewing of this superb film from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.

The movie starts outs as a fairly typical Brit stoner-romantic comedy, as we meet Shaun, (Pegg, who also co-wrote the script, in a tremendous performance…) the eponymous hero of our tale. Shaun is your average twenty-something guy… he works in a discount appliance store, visits his mom and step-dad every other week or so, tries to keep his girlfriend Liz happy… all while trying to keep his best friend Ed and their other flatmate Pete from killing each other, and himself pleasantly ‘self-medicated’.

It’s a tricky balancing act, but he manages to pull it off until one day when all hell breaks loose. Shaun forgets to make dinner reservations for a big night out with Liz, who promptly dumps him when he suggests they spend the evening at the local pub. He further alienates her by trying to give her flowers originally purchased for his mother and forgetting to remove the card inscribed “To a Wonderful Mum…” He and Ed get totally blitzed, stagger home, and wake up an enraged Pete, who has to be at work in a few hours.

And to top it off, the dead are rising to feast on the flesh of the living. Now, Shaun has to sort his life out and somehow win back the woman he loves, while dealing with a horde of cannibalistic zombies.

Before I saw this movie, I would’ve laughed at the suggestion that anyone could come up with yet another original take on George Romero’s “Zombie-Verse.” Since Romero’s DEAD quadrilogy began with the premiere of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1968, there have been hundreds of films that, to put it kindly, have ‘borrowed’ from the themes and imagery of the Romero films. A few, such as De Ossorio’s BLIND DEAD films or Fulci’s ZOMBI 2, have actually been well-done, original takes on a similar plot.

Most however have been little more than outright clones, with no originality, no imagination, and no talent whatsoever associated with them. I had assumed that every bit of originality and inspiration had been wrung from Romero’s premise, and you can’t imagine my joy at having been proven wrong.

Pegg and Frost have a unique chemistry together which completely convinces the viewer of their friendship, much the same type of chemistry that made Bob Hope and Bing Crosby such a great team. Their on-screen chemistry was great because played off each other so well, with an impeccable sense of timing, and Pegg and Frost’s works for the same reason; plus, they truly are good friends, friends who’ve spent many nights in pubs, just like Shaun and Ed.



THE DISC

Like most offerings from Universal, the SHAUN… DVD is superbly done, with perfect video and audio transfer, with audio tracks and subtitles in multiple languages. Universal put their best efforts into this disc, and it really shows.


THE SPECIAL FEATURES

This disc is as loaded with extras as you’re likely to see in anything not labeled “Ultimate Collector’s Edition.” Twenty-nine minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes; thirty-five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage; seven minutes of extended bits from the film, and assorted stills, posters, advertising images, and other goodies. And that doesn’t even mention my favorite feature: The Zomb-O-Meter.

For those of you familiar with VH-1’s Pop-Up Videos from the ‘90’s, the Zomb-O-Meter works in essentially the same way, displaying trivia and info about the movie along the bottom, in the style of a subtitle. Everyone should watch the movie at least once with the feature turned on; believe me, it adds an entirely new level to your enjoyment of the film.



IN CONCLUSION

To say that this is one of my favorite movies would be an understatement… I truly consider it to be the best Horror Film of the past decade or so. The list price is low enough, at just under $15, but it was selling at Amazon for $9.88, and at DeepDiscount DVD for 40¢ less. Either way, this is one movie everyone should see, and see often.














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