Universal // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // September 22nd, 2009
A smash hit romantic comedy, with zombies.
Recently I had a chance to review Hot Fuzz on Blu-ray for The Verdict. That viewing changed my mind about the movie, and I was curious if my general distaste for Shaun of the Dead might be swayed with a new viewing. I didn't think I'd have a chance so soon, but you can guess what Simon Pegg movie just arrived in my mailbox. Will it be two for two?
Shaun (Simon Pegg, Star Trek) is an exceptionally unmotivated individual. In a word, he's a slacker. He's perfectly content to lounge through life, not making much effort on anything. Enabling this behavior is his best buddy and roommate Ed (Nick Frost, Spaced), who is the ultimate useless lump of life. Getting fed up with Shaun's laziness is his girlfriend of many years, Dianne (Lucy Davis, The Office (UK)). She wants to see more verve and enthusiasm from the lumpen Shaun. Though he promises to change, he's too set in his ways, and Liz finally reaches her snapping point and breaks up with him. Amidst the misery of losing his girlfriend, strange things are afoot. As with all things it takes Shaun longer than most to realize that people are acting strangely, almost like zombies. And with zombies on a rampage, it's up to Shaun and Ed to rescue Liz, her friends, and his mother and stepfather from the undead.
As briefly mentioned above, I lamented in my review of Hot Fuzz how I was not a fan of any of Simon Pegg's movies. I found that quite strange as I'm definitely a fan of quirky and British humor. Though Hot Fuzz only warranted one viewing at release, I saw Shaun twice and even bought the DVD. But I just didn't like it, and promptly sold the DVD. So when I found myself finally seeing the light with Fuzz, I hoped to have a change with Shaun and hope for the same reversal. I am happy to report that I am two for two: I like Shaun of the Dead.
But not as much as Hot Fuzz.
I say that for two, intertwined reasons: the romance and the pacing. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm very Vulcan (as in Spock) in nature. I have a heart of gold but it's covered in many a layer of disdain and disinterest. So while the romance of the film adds a quality twist and unique perspective, I don't care all that much for the couple's problems. Yet it's not really the romantic "story" that's the problem; no, it's that the romance sets the pace of the story. That exposition and complicating of events takes a while to unfold. As such, I found myself a bit antsy waiting for the chaos to get going. While I state these quibbles first, it's just to get them out of the way. They are but slight detractors from an overall funny film.
We've see zombie movies of all sorts for ages, but Simon Pegg found a new way to present the quandary to us. With that dry British wit came a movie filled with great moments, and that's what kept me interested. What would happen next? How would we see the same old situation presented to us this time? What fancy twist would Pegg throw at us? It's the moments that make the movie, since we've seen the story before. When have you ever seen a zombie beaten with pool cues, done in rhythm to a song by Queen? How about killing a zombie with a record? A semi-zombie passing gas? It's the little touches that work for me.
But these little tweaks aren't just limited to killing zombies; they litter the entire movie. Shaun of the Dead starts as a romantic comedy but eventually develops into a horror film, but it's held together with humor. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (director and co-writer) really have a great way of approaching things and not always with the same delivery. They do physical comedy, slapstick, and the subtle joke. They weave a great tapestry of humor that adds dimension to the movie: a horror with comedy and a hint of romance.
As with the dread I felt upon receiving Hot Fuzz for review, I experienced a similar moment with this disc. It wasn't for fear of the movie; it was for fear of the bonus materials. Hot Fuzz was absolutely packed with hours of special features, and while I loved the content, I was exhausted by cramming them in such a short period of time. This disc follows the same layout as the other, but the quantity of content is significantly less. It was thus easier to go through it all, yet I was unexpectedly left wanting for more. How odd. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that there's a distinct lack of a "making of" feature on Shaun. But let's see what we are given, and I'll let the titles do most of the talking. The groupings below are as you'll find them on the disc. Lastly, a plus sign (+) means this feature was on the DVD; a hyphen (-) means it was on the HD DVD; but a bullet (* ) means this is a totally new feature.
+/- Extended Bits (13:28): 15 deleted/extended scenes with optional
commentary by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
+/- Outtakes (10:47)
* The Man Who Would Be Shaun (0:35): A silly outtake.
* Funky Pete (2:04): The safe for television version of a scene, substituting "funk" for the very naughty variation.
-- Plot Holes (3:27): Three storyboarded scenes to explain holes in the story.
Raw Meat: There is a play all option for this section.
+ Simon Pegg's Video Diary (6:44)
* Lucy Davis' Video Diary (5:05)
* Joe Cormish's Video Diary (10:16)
+ Casting Tapes
+ Ed & Simon's Flip Chart (13:36): Sadly not as good as Fuzz's chart.
+ SFX Comparison (2:25): For two scenes.
+ Make-Up Tests (2:20)
+ EPK Featurette (7:10): How nice of them to freely label it what it really is.
TV Bits: There is a play all option for this section. Everything here is material shown on televisions in the movie. (Some, if not all, of these are on the HD DVD but I'm not sure which.)
* T4 with Coldplay (4:21)
* Fun Dead (1:05)
* Trisha -- Your 9 Lives Are Up (1:26)
* Trisha -- I Married a Monster (1:31)
* Remembering Z Day (2:32)
U-Control:: Chose one or the other option (both can't run at the same time) to play during the movie.
- Zomb-O-Meter Trivia Track
+/- Commentary with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
+/- Commentary with Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Kate Ashfield, and Lucy Davis
* Commentary with Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton
* Commentary with the Zombies: Four of the actors who played zombies. Not mindless zombies just groaning throughout (like the Thermian track on Galaxy Quest).
There are also (-) photo galleries and (+/-) trailers, and the disc is D-Box and BD-Live enabled.
Last but certainly not least, what about the transfers? The video is 2.35:1, 1080p, and it looks very good. Colors are warm and appealing, accurate, and lifelike. Blacks are rich and inky, very important for the night scenes. I found detail and contrast to be very good. Throughout the presentation I didn't detect any significant problems to detract from my viewing pleasure. On the audio front you are treated to a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is excellent throughout. From the dialogue to the music to the ambience to the over-the-top action sound effects, everything is crystal clear utilizing every speaker very well. I did not hear anything that distorted an overall excellent aural experience. (On a comparison basis between Shaun and Fuzz, I found Fuzz to have a slightly overall better picture and sound presentation -- but Shaun is not bad by any means.)
I still don't like Universal's menu system, but it isn't quite so aggravating this time around.
Hurray, my mind is changed and I am now a fan of Simon Pegg. I'm years behind the ball on that but it's better late than never. Shaun of the Dead is a funny and exciting movie that finally swayed me. Sporting great transfers and a solid assortment of bonus features, this will make a fine addition to your Blu library. Now that I'm on a roll with Mr. Pegg, it certainly would appear that I need to procure a copy of Spaced. Go out and buy this disc.
Shaun of the Dead is hereby found not guilty of killing the queen.
Review content copyright © 2009 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Trivia Track
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Galleries
* D-Box Enabled
* Official Site