As you read back in Part One, Edgar Wright’s first big hit was a show in the U.K. called “Spaced”. “Spaced” was a big hit with both critics and TV audiences alike. While most of the world wouldn’t see the greatness of “Spaced” until years later (The show didn’t even hit the States on DVD until 2008), the success of “Spaced” allowed Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg to create “Shaun of the Dead“, a 2004 comedy with zombies, a zomedy if you will. Written by Edgar and Simon, “Shaun of the Dead” was to be about Shaun, played by Simon Pegg, a major slacker living with his best friend Ed, played by Nick Frost, who was even more of a slacker then Shaun. He also has an estranged relationship with his stepfather Philip, played by Bill Nighy, and after he fails to take his girlfriend Liz, played by Kate Ashfield, somewhere other then the Winchester, a local pub, she dumps him. Oh and the zombie apocalypse is about to be upon him.
Shaun really is a slacker, coasting through life. All of his co-workers are teenagers and he’s 29 and as he’s talking to one of them he says “I know you don’t wanna be here forever, ya know I got things I wanna do in my life,” The kid looks at him and says “When,” and Shaun can’t find a response. There is no trying with Shaun, he could have a better job and be a little happier but that would take effort. Same goes for Ed, who just sits at home playing TimeSplitters 2. I mean he does bring in a tad bit of income by selling some weed but that’s it.
Shaun is so much of a zombie himself in his day-to-day routine that he doesn’t even notice the apocalypse around him. Zombies are shambling in the streets, car alarms are going off everywhere, people are running for their lives, bloody handprints are on the fridge at the store, none of it fazes Shaun. He just gets his Diet Coke and Cornetto for Ed and heads back home.
The reason we like him and want him to succeed is because we know he can change. We know he can get his life turned around, even if it takes a zombie apocalypse. It also takes the apocalypse to make Shaun realize that he can’t keep holding on and defending Ed for the rest of his life. You can tell, due to the script and even more so that in real life Simon and Nick are best friends, that they’ve been friends since forever.
Did I mention that there are zombies in this movie? The film has good CGI effects AND practical effects, something slowly becoming unheard of these days it seems. When someone who won’t be named gets their stomach ripped open near the end of the movie, it looks real, as it should. When a certain zombie gets shot through the eye, it’s a good blend of seeing through the wound via CGI and blood shooting back via practical effects. It all really helps to sell that this is happening.
I can’t believe the film works on so many levels, it works as a story about a man forced to grow up and change how he lives his life, it works as a zombie film, the relationships between everyone feels like a real relationship, it works as a comedy…wait. I totally forgot to talk about how funny this movie is and I mean laugh-out-loud funny.
Some of the jokes are paid off immediately, such as Pete, Shaun and Ed’s other flatmate that doesn’t quite like having Ed around anymore, telling Ed in a voice like talking to a baby “It’s not that hard writing on scraps of paper.” only to turn his back to the camera and showing little scraps of paper on his back saying I. Am. A. Prick. Other jokes pay off twice, some jokes aren’t even jokes til you see it the 2nd time, one joke works as a “Spaced” reference AND as a great joke in the film.
A large part of why this films works as well as it does is, once again, Edgar Wright’s directing. He keeps the film moving at a pace to where you can’t slow down and things feel like they happen when they’re supposed too. A natural progression of scenes I guess you could call it. The movie uses Edgar’s quick-cut montages to make sure we get from Point A to Point B quicker and it’s not important stuff for us to see happen but it feels important once it’s apart of one of the montages. There’s no wasted time in this film.
To say that “Shaun of the Dead” is the 2nd best zombie film of all-time would be a lie, it’s better then George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”. As for where it falls in terms of best comedies, that’s a little harder to say, but it’s definitely near the top. The film works on so many levels and that’s attributable to many people but mostly Edgar Wright.
Check back on Friday for the final part of A Look Back At: Edgar Wright when we take a look at Hot Fuzz.