Shaun Of The Dead

Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Casting Tapes, Trailers & More

Have you ever felt like every day is the same? You go to your job repeating the same routine day in, day out and your friends/loved ones question whether you have any direction in your life. Welcome to Shaun’s world.

"Shaun of the Dead" opens in the "Winchester." A local pub where Shaun’s (Simon Pegg) girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is giving him an ultimatum – choose her or the Winchester. Liz complains that in the 3 years they’ve dated Shaun seems to show more of an interest in hanging out in the Winchester with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) than to spend some quality time alone with her. Even her best friends Di (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran) think that given the choice, Shaun would pick the pub over Liz. If he doesn’t get his act together she’s going to leave him. Oh, and by the way, as if things couldn’t get worse in Shaun’s life, the dead are coming back to life.

When Shaun and Ed finally realize that London is crawling with the walking dead, they devise a ludicrous plan to rescue Liz, Di and David, along with Shaun’s Mum Barbara (Penelope Wilton) and step dad Phil (Bill Nighy), and take them to the one place they will feel safe and comfortable with. The Winchester.

"Shaun of the Dead" is a new British romantic comedy featuring zombies from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Pegg co-wrote the film with Wright co-writing and directing. In a year filled with zombie films, what makes "Shaun" so unique is that instead of focusing predominately on the zombies and the threat they impose on the world, it presents the film almost like a British sitcom whose character interactions are constantly being interrupted by the dead.

The film is extremely funny and gory at the same time. And because the story never takes itself too seriously it’s never really scary. Not that that’s a complaint. In fact it was quite refreshing. All the characters have a loveable charm to them, especially Shaun’s stepfather Phil. Just like in every zombie film, when someone is bitten the inevitable fact is that you’re going to die and come back as a flesh eater. When Bill Nighy’s character is attacked and bitten his comment that he ran it under a cold tap, which states that he’s going to be fine, is hilarious. It’s small bits of dialog like this that make the movie enjoyable. Another approach I really enjoyed was that they choose to involve characters that all knew one another for some time, as opposed to complete strangers grouping together to survive. It allowed the deaths of certain characters to be more emotional moving.

Presented in its original theatrical <$PS,widescreen> 2.35:1 aspect ratio, "Shaun of the Dead" looks not bad. Even though the DVD has an average 7-8 Mbps bit rate, which is nice and high for a film of this kind, the original source material looked a little grainy in theaters to begin with and it’s presented here the same way. Colors are nice and have a cool, slightly bluish tint to them. I found they always look natural and flesh tones have that slightly pale British pigment. In the later night sequences blacks are nicely rendered as well. Details are easily visible and never look artificial with any enhancements. It’s not a film that will jump right out at you with its visuals but it nicely represents the look of film.

The <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> (448 kbps) mix is really good. I was quite surprised at how dynamic the sound in this film can get at times. Especially considering it’s from an independent studio. Various musical tracks run nicely throughout the film. Fans of the original Dawn of the Dead will recognize some used from the George A. Romero classic. With a film that heavily relies on dialog it’s important it be as clear and natural as possible. Even during a scene involving Shaun and Ed in the Winchester talking about the patrons of the pub, Ed’s dialog could be very hard to hear if it wasn’t mix well. If you find that your center channel doesn’t sound loud enough when you watch most films you might have difficulty hearing this part though. Later in the film when the characters fight for their lives in The Winchester gunplay sounds loud and powerful. This is one of the only areas in the film where your sub will get any use. Nice job.

I’d like to point out that I love the guys who designed the menus for this disc. They have a comic book simplicity to them that looks really cool. It’s nothing really elaborate but fun nonetheless.

If we jump over to the audio section of the disc we’re given the choice between two audio commentaries. The first is with Simon Pegg and Director Edgar Wright and the second is with a majority of the cast (Pegg, Front, Moran, Ashfield and Davis). After you’re done with those, head over to the extras department. Here is where some of the coolest bonus features I’ve ever seen lie.

Your first choice is the Raw Meat section. In this section you’ll find "Simon Pegg’s Video Diary" a 6-minute clip which is a random behind the scenes look at various parts of production. Sadly this is cool section that should have been a lot longer. 6 minutes unfortunately is only a tease for what could have been an extensive look into the production of the film. "Casting Tapes" is exactly that. These are always cool to see how basic the actor’s script readings seem compared to their finished performances. Running 13-minutes, "Edgar & Simon’s Flip Chart" is the one feature that really isn’t worth watching. Edgar and Simon flip through a chart describing every scene in the film in tiny details. Were they digging for anything to include on this disc. Watching this extra would seem so. "SFX Comparison" is cool. They take 2 key visual effects in the film and show you exactly how they had to composition them. "Make Up Tests" gives a short look at the individual zombies in the film. Surprising the only CGI effect used for the make up were the eyes. Last is the EPK Featurette (7min). It’s your typical promotional piece for the film.

Zombie Gallery is your next stop. Here we get to choose from a Photo Gallery, Poster Designs and 2000 Ad Strip. The Ad Strip is interesting. It’s a digital comic book that tells how one of the early zombies became zombies. It’s pretty cool and has nice artwork.

Next up are the US Trailer and various TV Spots. Coldplay make an appearance in one of the spots and is worth a shot viewing. A theatrical trailer for Blade Trinity, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle and Cellular are also on the disc but are only viewable when you first pop the disc into your player.

And the last section on the disc is called "Missing Bits." If you have limited time to go through the extras on this disc make this section a priority. Remember watching films on television back in the 80’s and 90’s. And remember how they were censored terribly towards harsh language. The classic "Mister Falcon" dubbing for "Die Hard" comes to mind immediately. This is where Funky Pete comes in. The makers of the film decided to show a clean, family friendly section of the film for network television and airlines. Obviously this is a joke because this film would never air during prime time. Check it out for a laugh. "The Man Who Would Be Shaun" is a short gag reel with Simon Pegg using an alternate voice for his character. "Extended Bits" is where you’ll find all 15 deleted sections of the film. Thankfully a selectable commentary is available to listen to with each scene. And now onto what I found to be one of the best and most original features I’ve come across in awhile. "Plot Holes" is a comic based narration that describes in detail, with great artwork might I add, 3 particular sections of the film where a plot hole occurred. What happened to Shaun when he ran off? What happened to Diane when she left the Winchester? And how did Ed get from the cellar to the shed? These are all creatively explained by each cast member and are absolutely hilarious. And last is an Outtakes section.

For those that haven’t had the opportunity to experience "Shaun of the Dead," I recommend checking it out. It’s one of those classic films that have an undeniable charm and wit that many American films don’t have seem to have. While American filmmakers feel it necessary to consistently assault our intelligence, it’s refreshing to see a smart comedy that doesn’t rely on overused crude jokes. And hey it has Zombies. What more could you ask for?