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Shaun of the Dead

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
Shaun of the Dead
from Film Forum, 09/30/04

When average joe Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his buddy Ed (Nick Frost) set out to rescue Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) and his mother (Penelope Wilton) from the zombies invading North London, they end up trying to survive a wild and bloody weekend … quite a change from their usual TV-watching, beer-drinking routine.

The U.K. blockbuster Shaun of the Dead, directed by Edgar Wright, is being called a "rom zom com," short for "romantic zombie comedy." And mainstream critics are celebrating it as one of the funniest flicks of the year. Perhaps even more surprising, religious press critics, who normally dismiss zombie movies as crass and disposable, are finding a few flattering words for Shaun as well.

"Part gorefest, part laughfest, part apocalyptic love story, the buddy-horror hybrid … is one of the most subversively funny films to come down the pike in awhile," says David DiCerto (Catholic News Service). "It is also, without question, one of the most gratuitously violent. Shaun … also offers some biting social satire about modern society, suggesting that the rat race and our catatonic fixation with TV and video games has set us on the path to zombiefication more surely—if not as swiftly—than any extraterrestrial epidemic."

Jonathan Rodriguez (Christian Spotlight) warns parents about the gore, and concludes, "As a horror movie buff and one who can appreciate British humor, I thought that Shaun … was a very funny film. It shows us that while the dead are obviously zombies, some of us among the living who lead dull, monotonous lives may very well be also."

Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) calls it "a funny, disgusting movie that hides its sensitive beating heart under gallons of zombie makeup. Though not as meanspirited as the Dawn of the Dead remake, it's equally gross, violent and foul-mouthed. Shaun is still meant mostly to provoke laughter, make people jump in their seats and gross everybody out with zombie gore. But those messages in the margins aren't bad ones for the movie's target audience—hordes of restless, video game-addicted, entertainment-engorged 18- to 35-year-old men who regularly consume violent content."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "For me, the preponderance of zombie gore that filled the screen overshadowed the humor that was to have been spawned from it. And it was tough for me to appreciate any of the romantic elements of the film for all the blood that was being spilled."

Frederica Mathewes-Green (formerly a contributor to Christianity Today and Our Sunday Visitor, now with The National Review) calls it a "simply clever" film that is "kind of dress rehearsal, like making a fire-escape plan, to test out what we'd do if something unusual happened—in this case, something that appears to be truly supernatural. We're reassured that, after a bit of excitement, we'd go right back to being comfortable consumers, watching the telly and going to the pub in the evening. That's pretty much what Jesus predicted: 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead' (Luke 16:31)."

Mainstream critics are eating it up.

from Film Forum, 10/14/04

Carole McDonnell (Film Forum) rates the film highly—for a zombie movie. "This is a better film than most zombie flicks, and certainly better than Resident Evil. If you want to take your walking English dead seriously, then 28 Days Later is the film to see. But if you want a good laugh and can endure the profanity (if you can understand some of those English phrases), this is the film to see."

Jeff Diaz (Film Forum) writes, "Shaun of the Dead delivers a movie about friendship, loyalty, and commitment all under the umbrella of a horror flick. In fact, more is said about relational health in this movie than in many lighter and fluffier films that try to make relationships their focus."