27 February 2009

DVD: "Shaun of the Dead"

Shaun of the Dead
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Nick Frost, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton
DVD Release Date: 24 May 2005
MPAA Rating: R (For Zombie Violence/Gore and Language)
List Price: $14.98
Cinescopes Personality Types: Dedicated Idealist, Destined Hunter

The Film
"A smash hit romatic comedy.  With zombies."  That's the tagline, and possibly the best description there could be for this film.  Shaun (Pegg) and Liz (Ashfield) are in a rut.  She's tired of three years of spending every night with his flatmate Ed (Frost), her friends Dianne (Davis) and David (Moran) at the Winchester Tavern.  When Liz realizes that neither Shaun nor their relationship isn't growing, she decides to break it off.  This coincides with a zombie infestation, and Shaun's mettle is tested for the first time in a long time.

Simply put, it is absolutely ridiculous that this is a single-disc release.  There are two commentaries (one with Wright and Pegg; the other with the five main cast members), as well as two viewing options (one with a running text commentary full of insights into in-jokes and references to other zombie movies; the other offering frequent comparisons to the original storyboards).  There are deleted scenes (with and without commentary), outtakes, footage shot during filming, a walkthrough by Wright and Pegg of their original story idea on a flip chart, make-up tests, test screening footage of the main cast, a breakdown of a few of the main special effects sequences and the full versions of a few of the segments shown at the end of the film on TV.  It will take hours to watch all of these extra features, and that's not even counting the four times you would need to re-watch the film to get the commentaries and storyboard comparions.

The Recommendation
Shaun of the Dead is a complete gem, and it's because this was clearly a labor of love.  At no point does this devolve into being a Scary Movie-type parody; everything is played straight, and that's what makes it so funny.  There are some genuinely disturbing scenes and real tension as the story progresses.  Each of the cast is terrific, and their characters all have real arcs.  I'm thrilled to have seen this in its theatrical run, and it easily ranks in my Top 20 Favorite Movies list.  If you want to see what a romantic comedy with zombies is about--or what the DVD format can and should be about--then Shaun of the Dead is "fried gold."

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