it’s a farce in somewhat the same tradition as scary movie or naked gun; though more subtle and reserved. whereas scary movie and naked gun go completely over-the-top with their parodies of horror and detective films, shaun of the dead hams up some of the zombie movie conventions without going over-the-top. there are several nods to specific films in the genre as well. in one scene the two main characters are on the phone with “barbara,” who they tell to sit tight while they come over to save her. one of the characters yells into the phone “we’re coming to get you barbara!” this is a reference to the first, great zombie flick “night of the living dead” in which one character is teasing barbra while in a cemetery – “they’re coming to get you bar-bra, they’re coming to get you…”
the first quarter of the film sets the baseline. we see shaun waking up, going to the corner market, interacting with roommates and coworkers. it essentially poses the question: who are the zombies? this question is partially answered as the transition to zombie nation is made. just about everyone around shaun starts turning into a zombie and he doesn’t even realize it. he’s so rapt in thoughts of his own interior world that the exterior world is merely a place in which he wanders, rather than being an integral part of his daily interactions. that is, his own life is so monotonous and regimented, and he is so thoroughly ensconced in his own world that everything outside of him goes unnoticed. the question is answered fully during the film’s denouement which is mostly a series of clips from news programs that recap the zombie episode and its aftermath. we also see that shaun’s best friend (think brad pitt in true romance), who was earlier turned to a zombie, remains an avid video game player despite his zombie state; in other words, despite being a zombie, little has changed. of course all this is done in a funny way, versus the cutting social commentary of the original dawn of the dead.
one thing that put me off a bit was the insertion of a couple heavy scenes in the film. there were a couple death scenes which i couldn’t reconcile within the context of the rest of the film. usually farce films like this ham up the forced romance we see in these sorts of films, but shaun of the dead actually tried to play the romance and death storylines fairly straight. there were laughs before and after these islands of seriousness, but the laughs were generally outside of final goodbye or the “we should be boyfriend and girlfriend again because i really love you” scenes. the filmmakers either fell prey to the convention, felt they could get away with some touching moments, or i didn’t pick up on the humor in these scenes. it’s not that i’m opposed to serious moments in a comedy, but it felt misplaced in this film primarily because it’s a film of farce and parody of the zombie genre. that minor quibble aside, the film was consistently funny and made with enough panache to keep it interesting throughout. oh, the two lead actors did a really good job and their apartment walls were filled with great music posters (funki porcini, amon tobin, saul williams, company flow, etc.)Watched in theater