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Volume 72, Issue 137, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Life & Arts

Finding a niche in zombie flicks 

Horror parody highlights the funny parts 
when the end of the world arrives 

The Daily Cougar

With the release of Hot Fuzz this weekend, it seems only fitting to take a look at underground hit Shaun of the Dead from 2004, as it also comes from Britons Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

Shaun of the Dead, a loose parody of cult classic Dawn of the Dead, highlights the shaky relationship between lovable loser Shaun, his girlfriend Liz and their friends amid zombies. The best part of the whole thing is first the first half of the movie: None of the characters seem to even take notice of people around them becoming undead. They actually mistake the first one they really encounter for a drunk.

George Romero's Dawn was able to frighten (and amuse) while exploring themes: mass consumerism, turmoil and emptiness of 1970s America.

Aside from making viewers laugh to death, Shaun of the Dead has its own way of making them think as well. In the movie, six months after what the media call "Z-Day," journalists declare the zombies, who maintain their primal instincts as ideal employment candidates for the customer services industry. This is an appropriate kind of ending for a movie that opens with images of lifeless people ? cashiers, children, commuters and hipsters ? making their way through a theretofore uneventful day.

In fact, Shaun is kind of a zombie in his own right, as several shots in the film indicate quite well. He is lazy, unambitious and not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed ? a condition that plagues the society of today and is particularly prevalent among the youth and Generation X. He, like many of his peers on both sides of the pond, just didn't quite have it all figured out just yet.

The inherent greatness of Shaun of the Dead, though, lies in the not-necessarily-zombie-related humor. Pegg and Wright's silliness and exaggerated gestures paired with the panicky camera shots and dialogue add to whatever potential hilarity zombies bring to the party. Throughout, Shaun and the gang make the weirdest jokes (not always intentionally) considering their situation. For example, it's just strange to hear Shaun's mum attribute the characteristic of "bitey" to the undead. The deadpan and over-the-top qualities of British humor are not lost in translation. 

However, while there is plenty of humor and absurdity to go around, blood and gore is not entirely lacking. It's not really the primary focus, but it is certainly there, though often in the background. 

Taking such a serious topic as death and making it laugh out loud funny is no easy feat. The fact of the matter is Shaun of the Dead, like its inspiration, makes horror an acceptable and even cerebral genre. It is films like these that really understand what is horrible and terrifying in life. A lifeless and hopeless society will always trump some white chick being mindlessly slain in creative ways. Shaun reminds us that sometimes we just need to laugh ? especially in truly terrible times.

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