Plot: What’s it about?
Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a decent person, a good friend, and a loving boyfriend, but his life never seems to work out as he envisions. His best friend Ed (Nick Frost) often lands him in trouble with his roommate and his lovely girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). But it isn’t always Ed’s fault, though his rude behavior and insulting nature don’t often help the situations. Shaun loves Liz and wants the relationship to work, but he isn’t ambitious enough and is too easily distracted. He hates his job and would rather play video games than most anything else, though he loves to drink as often as possible. Such is Shaun’s problem, as he tries to be himself and that means video games and trips to his favorite pub, even when inappropriate. His mother scolds him for wasting his potential and Liz hounds him about living in a rut, but Shaun is content with his lifestyle. That is, until Liz leaves him and he is left without the love of his life. He still goes to his pub and has some drinks with Ed, but when he wakes up the next day, his entire world has changed. Not just because he was dumped either, but because the dead have started to rise and feed on the living. Shaun and Ed knock off a few zombies at home, but then realize that Shaun’s mom and Liz are out there and could be zombie food by now. So they load up, venture out to rescue them, then hole up in a safe place until the coast is clear. Shaun finally has a plan for his life, but with the end of the world at hand, is it too late to win back his lover’s heart?
I haven’t seen a horror movie given widespread, mainstream hype in a dog’s age, but Shaun of the Dead was given so much hype, it was impossible to escape. Even blockbusters aren’t given this level of exposure, with ads on television, magazines, and internet sites, a gush of praise within each. I even saw testimonials from horror movie icons, all of whom called Shaun of the Dead an instant cult classic. Of course, when a movie is rolled out with a promotional machine like this one, the term cult classic seems out of place, since this is as mainstream as horror can ever become. I love horror movies though, easily my favorite genre, so despite the hype, I held out hope that Shaun of the Dead would be a fun ride. I suppose the hype built up even my expectations, as I found the film to be rather bland in most scenes, a passable picture with some novel moments. Then again, I wanted a real mixture of horror and romance, as was promised. Instead, the focus is on slapstick and in jokes, leaving the blood and guts I desired left behind. I still had a decent time with the movie, but I was let down, as the film does not deliver on all of the hype. As I said, I wanted more of a standard horror movie with comic and romantic elements mixed in, not an over the top comedy with horror traits. So if you’re a horror buff in search of the next classic, Shaun of the Dead isn’t what you seek. But if you want a brisk, harmless jaunt, horror buff or not, Shaun of the Dead makes a solid rental choice.
Video: How does it look?
Shaun of the Dead is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As per usual on their day & date releases, Universal has supplied a gorgeous visual effort, with minimal complaints to make on any front. The print looks clean and shows no wear signs, which is good, since this one moved from theaters to DVD in a matter of months. The colors are vibrant and bold, with no errors to speak of, while flesh tones remain natural at all times. I saw no problems with contrast either, as detail is high throughout and black levels are always well balanced, without exception. Another new release from Universal and of course, another top notch visual presentation. This is about as good as the film can look on DVD, which is about all we can demand.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is your typical dialogue driven comedy track, but it does have a few horror bells & whistles, which liven up the experience. The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is based in the front channels most of the time, but often moves to the back for the musical soundtrack, as well as some well placed sound effect presence. I wouldn’t call this track immersive, but the background noise is well done and adds to the experience, to be sure. The dialogue is always clean and well balanced too, so you won’t have to fiddle with the volume controls here. A step above the usual comedy mix, this track earns a little extra in terms of score, as the audio is quite good indeed. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, should you need those options.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A two disc edition loaded with supplements is available overseas, but Universal has only included some of those extras here. The main draw here is a pair of audio commentary tracks, the first with director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, the second with a host of cast members. As expected, the cast track is more lively and fun, with half a dozen or so voices involved. But the better of the two is with Pegg and Wright, who provide real insight into the project, from conception to completion. You can also take a look at the film’s special effects features, watch a brief behind the scenes featurette, view some audition tapes, or check out some humorous outtakes. This disc also includes some plot hole explanations, a selection of deleted scenes, a video diary from Pegg, poster artwork & still photos, and the film’s theatrical trailer.