Edgar Wright is unquestionable a cool filmmaker. His sense of comedy and style has made his films easily some of the most rewatchable films ever. Some may remember his, and coincidently, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s humble beginnings to stardom in their sitcom Spaced, it is here that these three men would introduce their comedic and filmmaking style with snappy camera movements and clever comical writing. It was during this TV series that they penned the episode “Art” in which Pegg’s character hallucinates on amphetamine whilst playing Resident Evil 2. Afterwards the pair decided to write their own zombie film, giving us Shaun of the Dead.
Made in 2004, the film follows Shaun (Simon Pegg) an electronic salesman whose life is going nowhere and has been dumped by his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). He lives with his best friend and slacker Ed (Nick Frost) who spends most of his time drinking and playing video games. One day, Shaun and Ed discover (eventually) the zombie apocalypse has happened and set out to seek refuge in their local pub with Liz and her friends as well as Shaun’s family.
The amount of time you can spend analysing Shaun of the Dead is ridiculous. There is always something that somehow links to other scenes or just the story in general addressed though how Edgar Wright uses visual comedy though his filmmaking techniques and writing. If you listen closely to Ed during one of the pub scenes at the beginning, you’ll hear quite possibly the best piece of foreshadowing in history as his dialogue practically summarises what’s going to happen in the film. there are also seemingly insignificant extras that appear as zombies later on in the film. There are just so many little details and references you could write an entire book just listing them all.
The visual comedy can be found in more than just references and foreshadowing however, Edgar Wright’s comedic timing in the way he uses editing and sound is unmatched. Things will enter the frame at the correct time for barrels of laughter and well-timed sound effects work in a variety of ways from breaking the tension with humorous releases or to drive the stop/start pacing of the film, making mundane actions feel like there’s a lot more going on in the dreariest of situations. Music has been becoming a huge part of Edgar Wright, in particular timing actions with a song’s beat. Although fully utilized in Baby Driver, you can see this auteurship in Shaun of the Dead in which Shaun, Liz and Ed beat up a zombie set to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
But more important than the goofy visual comedy, Shaun of the Dead is pretty grounded with its characters. Shaun is supposed to be the “everyman” character, the film establishes this in his journey to the shop which he’s made thousands of times before, he works an unrewarding job every say and he spends his evenings drinking in his local pub, The Winchester. Shaun is someone who cares for the people around him and will often say that he will change, but he lacks the commitment or drive to act on these proposed changes.
What makes Shaun an exceptionally strong character is that the people around him are written to be an extreme part of Shaun’s character. Ed for example is representative of Shaun’s with a lack of drive and his other flatmate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) is Shaun with commitment. These people bring out Shaun’s personality and it’s only made stronger when he has to fight off zombies which are a representation of the mundaneness of Shaun’s life that he has to defeat in order to change.
The title is an obvious reference to the godfather of zombie films George A. Romero and his “… of the Dead” films so for those who love zombie films, Shaun of the Dead has ways of satisfying that side of the fandom. Although this is somewhat of a light-hearted film, Shaun of the Dead is just as gory as your everyday zombie film, there is one particular character death that mimics a very famous zombie demise in Romero’s Day of the Dead. But gore aside Shaun of the Dead also has a couple of touching and emotional moments where Shaun has to meet his obstacles head on in the context of a zombie apocalypse.
Many people have said that Shaun of the Dead is a near perfect film and while I’m sure there’s room for argument to say otherwise, it’s what Edgar Wright does with the story that makes it feel flawless. His attention to detail is inspiring for filmmakers and not forgetting the perfect chemistry of Pegg and Frost. I think this film refreshed audiences minds in the power of smart filmmaking, where you actively watch it multiple times to try and spot new things you might have missed, that’s probably why The Cornetto Trilogy is shown so many times on TV because they are aware of audience’s unconditional love for these films. It’s also an unorthodox romantic comedy film and as I’m posting this on the day of love itself, it’s the perfect time for a couples rewatch, so hole up, have a cup of tea and enjoy.