Film Review: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Also known as: Tea-Time of the Dead (working title), Zombies Party – Uma Noite… de Morte (Portugal), Zombies Party – Una Noche… de Muerte (Spain)
Release Date: March 29th, 2004 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: Pete Woodhead, Daniel Mudford
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “I” in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team… I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Shaun

The first time that I watched Shaun of the Dead, I knew that it would not only be a cult classic, right out of the gate, but I knew it would go down as a comedy classic and one of the best of its era. I wasn’t wrong and it helped Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carve out really nice careers for themselves.

It also kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which included 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End.

Out of those three films, this one sits in the middle for me, as I like Hot Fuzz more and thought that The World’s End was fairly underwhelming.

This movie is pretty simple and straightforward, though. It also came out before zombie movies and television shows really blew up and became oversaturated in entertainment. So when I saw this for the first time in 2004, it was pretty unique and immediately became one of my favorite horror comedies.

There have been a lot of horror comedies since, especially in the zombie subgenre. But this and the original Return of the Living Dead are the only two I’d consider true classics.

The cast in this had great chemistry but most of them are good friends and had worked together previously in the TV shows Spaced and Black Books.

Shaun of the Dead also feels like a natural extension of Spaced, even though it features familiar actors in different roles. The style of the comedy, the two main characters’ camaraderie and the film’s general tone match up with Spaced, though. That also probably has to do with Edgar Wright helming both.

The story sees a lovable and well-meaning loser have to step up to the plate when the zombie apocalypse kicks off in London. He needs to win back his girlfriend, save his mum and his friends and try to survive the undead outbreak with a pint in his hand.

This doesn’t need a complicated story and it’s better that it’s simple and allows the characters the time to develop and win you over. It’s funny though, as this was the first time I saw Dylan Moran and by the end, I thought he was the biggest prick in the world. And he was, in this film, but he’d actually become one of my favorite comedians and comedic actors after seeing a lot of his standup, as well as his roles in Black Books and a slew of other appearances over the years.

Shaun of the Dead was my introduction to a lot of actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Kate Ashfield, the female lead, is actually the only person in this who I haven’t seen in anything else. Still, she’s really enjoyable in this and added a lot to this group’s dynamic.

I’m glad that I revisited this again, as it’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies in this trilogy or Spaced. But after seeing this, I’m going to work through them all again for future reviews.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

TV Review: Black Books (2000-2004)

Original Run: September 29th, 2000 – April 15th, 2004
Directed by: various
Written by: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley
Music by: Jonathan Whitehead
Cast: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig

Assembly Film and Television, Channel 4, BBC, 18 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

It is quite possible that Black Books is my favorite situation comedy of all-time. It is certainly in contention anyway, as it is one of those shows where I can watch any episode at any time and still find it uncontrollably funny. The jokes and gags don’t get old, the camaraderie amongst the cast is iron clad and the tone of the show in how it deals with its subject matter and its use of timing, is impeccable. Very few shows are this well written and have the comedic talent capable of optimizing such great writing, as well as the cast of Black Books.

The plot follows Bernard (played by Dylan Moran) who is a drunk Irishman living in London running a bookshop. With him are his dimwitted but insanely lovable sidekick Manny (played by Bill Bailey) and their neighbor and friend Fran (played by Tamsin Greig). The show, like all sitcoms, follows the cast’s misadventures and misdeeds. In this case, things never seem to end well and the characters are usually their own worst enemies.

The cast plays off of each other so well and in such a way that I would put them head-to-head with any other great sitcom cast and I could guarantee they’d outshine them.

It’s sad that the show only lasted for three series, six episodes each. 18 episodes just isn’t enough but at least those 18 episodes are all quality, unlike American sitcoms that pump out 25 episodes a season, only producing a handful or less that are worthwhile. Regardless, I would love to see this revived for another series or even a proper special to officially close out the show. Yes, it has been ten years since it left the air but all three of these actors still has the talent and the ability to pull it off.

Besides, if you are a fan of the show, how could you not want to see where Bernard, Manny and Fran are ten years later? My prediction, Bernard and Manny are miserable working for some online book retailer and Fran is a cat lady with a failed liver.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: SpacedThe IT Crowd and Green Wing.