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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Shaun of the Dead (2004)

"Look, I don't care what the telly says, all right? We have to get out of here. If we don't, they'll come up here and tear us to pieces....That's really going to exacerbate things for all of us."
- Shaun (Simon Pegg)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 05, 2005

Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield
Other Stars: Dylan Moran, Lucy Lu Davis, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilson, Nicola Cunningham, Peter Serafinowicz, Jessica Stevenson
Director: Edgar Wright

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: R for zombie violence/gore and language
Run Time: 01h:39m:21s
Release Date: December 21, 2004
UPC: 025192582127
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-BA- A

DVD Review

Horror comedy is a difficult genre to pull off well; most of the time it misfires and becomes tedious. But it can be a very special and hugely entertaining genre when handled by creators with wit and a willingness to go far over the top. That's the case with this instant cult classic from the creators of the British comedy series Spaced.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a sales advisor in a dead-end job at a London appliance store, losing his unappreciated girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) and alienated from his mum Barbara (Penelope Wilson) and stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy). Living with irritable Peter (Peter Serafinowicz) and sponging drug dealer Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun can only escape at his favorite pub, The Winchester. But his Sunday morning hangover is rudely interrupted by the mutation of a superflu into a zombie-generating disease. Soon Shaun and Ed are on a desperate attempt to reach safety with Barbara, Philip and Liz as well as Liz's friends David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Lu Davis), armed only with a shovel and a cricket bat. As they get surrounded by the living dead, The Winchester becomes their last refuge.

A good deal of the humor is based on references to countless zombie and horror movies, down to music quotations from Dawn of the Dead and dialogue and character names lifted from various such pictures (such as the offhand remark about Fulci's Restaurant or Shaun's emphatic, "We're coming to get you, Barbara!"). Fans of George Romero and Lucio Fulci will definitely find a lot to like here, but the film also plays well enough with only the barest familiarity with zombie pictures and their conventions: if you've seen any of Romero's Living Dead movies, you'll get much of the humor, and if all else fails there's a fair sampling of slapstick. American viewers will probably miss many of the British TV references, but they go by quickly and there's another gag or spouting fount of gore to distract you quickly enough.

Much of the amusement value in the first part of the picture is based on Shaun and Ed's self-absorbed life, to the point of being completely oblivious to the shambling dead around them (though to be fair they're not all that different from the dazed-looking commuters on Shaun's bus) and even the bloody handprints on convenience store windows. Shaun's dawning understanding of the situation, as well as of his relationships with his parents and Liz, is very enjoyable, as is his interaction with Ed, who is best described as a British version of Bluto Blutarsky. Nick Frost brings him to a memorably slovenly life. The rest of the supporting cast is highly entertaining, particularly Moran and Davis, who seem to have stepped straight out of the first scenes of Straw Dogs.

The combination of vicious slacker humor, a pounding soundtrack comprised of 30 years of idiosyncratic tunes, and loopy gore (but with excellent and highly realistic effects) is truly remarkable. The combination of the horrific and the ridiculous is brought to a perfect balance that's well worth seeking out.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen for the most part looks good, as is appropriate for a new film. Color and shadow detail are quite satisfactory. The primary defect is edge enhancement that all too often is very noticeable.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 audio track has a good impact, with the music in particular sounding fine, with a thumping bass and excellent presence. The dialogue is clean, though the accents may be difficult at times for American viewers. Keeping the subtitles up isn't a bad idea.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 37 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Text Commentary
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Unleashed, Drunken Jackasses: The Quest, Seed of Chucky
15 Deleted Scenes
6 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) director Edgar Wright and writer/star Simon Pegg; and 2) Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Lu Davis
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:26s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
  2. TV clips
  3. Outtakes
  4. 2000 AD strip
Extras Review: Universal supplies a healthy dose of extras for fans of the picture. A pair of informative commentaries (though a bit duplicative, due to Pegg being on both of them) are supported by a text commentary that fills in many of the references and in-jokes. The text commentary is spoiler-laden, so be warned not to use it until you've seen the film already. An assemblage of featurettes include Pegg's video diary of behind-the-scenes materials (6m:43s). Audition tapes (4m:13s) are supplemented by Pegg and Wright's flip chart presentation of the film (13m:25s), mimicking their pitch sessions. A detailed special effects comparison (2m:24s) dissects two key effects shots, and makeup tests (2m:19s) take a look at various attempts at the zombie and gore effects. An okay EPK featurette is thrown in as an afterthought. A gallery of 45 photos and six poster designs and a comic strip are included. Four television programs that come up as brief bits in the film are presented in longer form. A set of mildly amusing outtakes and 15 deleted and extended scenes are pretty good. Finally, three plot holes in the film are filled in by nicely-done pseudo-storyboards. Whew. This is one jam-packed disc.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Dark comedy and slapstick, with a nice transfer (but for the edge enhancement) and an enormous array of extras make this worth a purchase if you have even the slightest fondness for zombie films and don't mind seeing them sent up.

 


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