Saturday, August 15, 2009

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Edgar Wright, 2004, UK) Shaun is already a member of the walking dead, victim of intellectual cannibalism whose hopeless sum is the lowest common denominator: a young man whose potential is salted like peanuts and drowned in Guinness. He is stuck in the jaundice of adolescence, nearing middle age and still a failure; he sleepwalks through his dreary workday, the world around him like a thick haze of smoke clouding his aspirations. When his girlfriend Liz breaks up with him, his epiphany begins: “Get Liz back, visit Mum, straighten out life”…at least it’s a start. Director Edgar Wright has penned a fantastic script that is both parody and allegory: homage to Romero’s classic triptych and toying with zombie genre convention while also showing us our dull life of mind-numbing routine where the difference between the living and the walking dead is a very fine and decomposing line. Wright never explains the cause of Zed-Day though flippant newscasts almost reveal the secret, (though we know it wasn’t a rage virus) while utilizing musical cues from DAWN OF THE DEAD. The film is ripe with details that please the fanboy/girl cult while introducing soulful and humorous characters that are very much like people we know…or hope to know. Simon Pegg as Shaun adds a wonderful depth of emotional realism, his face a template for every slacker, while his best friend Ed is the slob and the guy we all grew up with. But Shaun must realize that he himself is to blame for his dilemma while a zombie plague ravages the world. But his best-laid plans lead his friends and family towards certain damnation; this time, his impotence is a death sentence. Trapped in the Winchester, a ubiquitous destination for all losers, they fight amongst themselves and must fend off the flesh-eating creatures. In one touching scene, Shaun makes amends with his mother before making a fatal decision, and it’s these powerfully traumatic moments that support the narrative foundation, to make us care and connect with the characters, and hope for their salvation. With a subtle encomium towards Michael Cimino, Shaun and Liz must face their last moments together, a bandanna wrapped tightly around his head while contemplating suicide, evoking the spirit of Nick in a sweaty Saigon warehouse. Even the Deus Ex Machina in the form of a red button is funny, as they rise towards a possible future together…alive. (A)

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