Thursday, September 23, 2004
Shaun has problems. His job is mind-numbing.
SHAUN: "There's no I in team but there is in pie as in meat pie which is an anagram for team."
His girlfriend just dumped him
"Things'll be fine I promise."
LIZ: "You promised to stop smoking when I did, you promised to go to the gym, you promised to drink red wine instead of beer, you promised to go on holiday with me."
SHAUN: "We went to Greece."
LIZ: "We met in Greece."
And his London suburb has just been invaded by zombies
"Don't say it."
SHAUN: " That word. The zed word. Don't say it."
SIMON PEGG: "We wanted the zombies to be ever present but never comic. We didn't want them to be the story really, the story really is that they are hindering Shaun from doing something that he really has to do which is short his life out."
Simon Pegg plays the title character in Shaun of the Dead. He co-wrote the film with Edgar Wright.
EDGAR WRIGHT: "One of the first ideas was to call it Teatime of the Dead , so it'd be like the English Night, Day, Dawn, Teatime .
This British spin on the horror genre gives the film its unique charm. Just listen to Shaun's plan for saving his mum and knocking off his zombie-infected step dad Philip.
SHAUN: " We take Pete's car, drive over to mum's, take care of Philip, grab mum, go over to Liz' place, hole up, have a cup of tea and wait for all this to blow over."
This unflappable British cheeriness even in the face of a full-scale invasion of the living dead provides ample humor in the film. And it works so well because Pegg and Wright take the time to develop the characters and their relationships. Only after Shaun's mundane problems have been laid out, says Wright, does the zombie onslaught begin.
EDGAR WRIGHT: "The audience really like it because they're with the characters at that point, they've watched half an hour of people that they sympathize with and then when they have to become killers it's a much more shocking thing. So that's why it gets bigger laughs is because weve had that slow burn build up to it."
Unlike most horror films, Shaun's opening set up isn't just padding but rather offers delicious a payoff in the end. According to Simon Pegg that's because they worked long and hard on the script.
SIMON PEGG: " Everything is vital and you have to pay attention because there are lines that repeat and themes that reoccur. The before is as important as the after because in a way it's as scary because it's about not doing anything with your life."
But Shaun and his slacker roommate Ed are forced to uproot themselves from the couch when their way of life is challenged by the even more apathetic zombies.
ED: [zombie moans and groans] "Aim for the head."
With few firearms in the U.K., the two unlikely heroes have to be creative in their choice of weapons, and grab what's available like a cricket bat or old LPs.
Ummm Purple Rain?"
SHAUN: " No."
ED: "Dire Straights?"
SHAUN: " Throw it."
Wright says he wanted to show how human behavior remains constant even when calamity strikes.
EDGAR WRIGHT: "We loved the idea that even in a crisis that people could still bicker and because zombies are slow it gives people time to like have an argument."
In that respect, the zombies in Shaun are like those in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. And like that film, says Simon Pegg, Shaun uses zombies to make a satirical comment on the ills of society.
SIMON PEGG: "Yeah we wanted to keep that spirit that George Romero started off which is to use them to as he did with Dawn with consumerism and Day which was vivisectionists and use them as a metaphor."
EDGAR WRIGHT: " The zombies meant different things in different eras. We always said our zombies are a metaphor for apathy. It's kind of like the great plague is laziness, so it was like the zombies represent sloth.
What should we do?"
SHAUN: "Have a sit down."
The film also pokes fun contemporary city life where people are wrapped up in their own little bubble and don't notice what's going on around them -- even when the dead start to rise. Wright says the sound design reflects this as it foreshadows the zombie takeover.
CLIP Montage of news bites.
EDGAR WRIGHT: "It's something that we wanted to build up, we wanted to get the sense of something bad happening, that you can kind of hear something in the next street. How many times are you sitting at home and the police go by and you don't even look out of the window So it was something that we thought was both funny and scary at the same time."
Shaun of the Dead (rated R) delivers everything you expect from a zombie movie -- undead hordes, head-bashing gore, side-splitting humor -- plus some things you rarely find in any movie -- sweetness, wicked social satire and a savvy sense of filmmaking. Shaun aims for the head and the funny bone, and scores a major hit with both. It's simply the best dead, undead or living film so far this year.