Vampires. Succubi. Boogey men. Many monsters have been created throughout history to strike fear into the hearts of humanity, but none is quite as feared, hated, and revered as the zombie.
Zombie movies are fantastic. I went through a zombie movie kick for a while, picking up every single title I could find. I bought all of The Walking Dead comics and read every single one. I. Loved. Zombies. Still do, sorry. Not past tense. And when I tell you I picked up every single zombie movie I could, I mean it. Tokyo Zombie: ever seen it? No? Well you should. Very good. Aaah! Zombies! is another good one. Very ridiculous, but it takes a unique perspective on the genre.
So when I say that Shaun of the Dead is the greatest zombie movie ever made, I can tell you that with pretty solid certainty because I’ve seen most all of them. You may disagree. You may be more into the scary zombie genre, and I totally get it. 28 Days/Weeks Later and Resident Evil (if you can even count it as a zombie movie, but I’m going to) and that whole genre of super scary, super fast zombies are great and all, but I think zombies have a different purpose than to just scare you.
See, I have a theory of why zombies are as feared and revered as they are. Nothing scares us more than ourselves. When humanity is faced with a giant lizard that can destroy whole towns with a sweep of its tail, we can just nuke it. Problem solved. When we’re faced with an invisible specter that strikes in the night… well there’s not much we can do about that, is there?
With zombies, it’s different. We’re fighting something that is us. We’re fighting them on our turf (which also happens to be their turf). We’re fighting an all out war against ourselves, and it’s beautiful. When you take into account all the different types of zombies… well, here’s a short list of what I can think of:
- Night of the Living Dead: dumb, slow, hordes
- Land of the Dead: zombies get smarter, can pick up guns
- Resident Evil: dead, smart, fast, strong
- 28 Days/Weeks Later: not dead, just super pissed off people
- High School of the Dead: fast, strong, blind, super powerful hearing
- The Walking Dead: start out fast, get slower because of natural decay
When you take into account all these things, they’re things that are actually legitimately scary. If you went into a room and saw a bunch of zombies there, but they couldn’t see you, you could make it across, right? You’d just have to be really, really quiet so they wouldn’t come at you all at once. You couldn’t use guns. You couldn’t talk. You’d have to actually have to think about how to survive against each and every one of their strengths (and exploit their weaknesses).
That’s what I think our obsession with zombies is about: it’s a fight against ourselves, both with our own self and other humans, and you have to survive.
So what if you didn’t know this was happening? What if you were just so oblivious to the whole world, walking through it day by day like, well, like a zombie? That’s Shaun of the Dead. I mean, eventually they get their heads in the game and start to see what’s actually going on, but it’s after a night out getting plastered, a trip to the store, a walk back home, a sit down, and a pole going through a girl’s stomach before they realize it.
It’s also absolutely brilliantly written. Every minute of the first half of the movie is replayed in the second half of the movie. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to watch it to fully understand the complexity and subtlety of these things, but I’ll do my best to explain:
Shaun goes to the store, looks through the Coke fridge, asks the shopkeep for papers, and goes back home in both acts. One is in the non-zombie world, one is in zombie-world. Shaun meets up with an old roommate and they have almost the exact conversation with each other in both halves of the movie (this actually happens 3 times). Everything that happens in the first act happens in the second in almost the exact same way. It’s beautiful. Every time I watch it, I find something new that I didn’t notice before. I really think that’s what makes a good movie: it keeps surprising you with something new every time you watch it.
Along with the beautiful writing done for the parallel acts of the script, the humor is just phenomenal. There are a lot of comedies out there that try to be funny. But with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, it just is funny. There is no trying. Every joke and transition leads seamlessly into the next. There’s never a moment where you go “Oh well that wasn’t very funny…” because A) you don’t have time to, and B) because there aren’t any not-funny moments in the film.
And they do such a great job with the zombies. Like I said, I enjoy all types of zombie incarnations, but Shaun of the Dead uses all of the typical tropes and uses them all to its advantage. Some zombies are smart, some zombies are dumb. Some zombies are strong, others aren’t at all.
This movie can’t be summed up in a measly blog post, so if you haven’t already, go out and buy it. Actually, go out and buy all three of the Cornetto Trilogy films. You won’t be disappointed.
I’m really surprised I stayed away from talking too much about how great Simon Pegg is. Maybe I’ll do a Top 5 Best Simon Pegg Movies post someday…