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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I love zombie movies. I don't own a lot of them - there are few I want to watch over and over again - but I love them. I think they speak so much to us as humans and our culture in a given moment. I once set about writing a book on zombie movies as a barometer of societal subconscious. Shaun of the Dead is my favorite zombie movie.

Comedy is my favorite genre in the broadest of terms. But I like it most when it mingles with other genres. Horror comedy is my jam because I firmly believe that the most empowering thing we can do is laugh at what scares us. Not in a divisive way. Not in a mean way. But in a way that forces your brain to see the absurdity in a thing. Imagine, if you will, being in the middle of a massive pandemic and one third of the people you know are oblivious to it (or act like it), and another third think it's a hoax. Imagine! But when you put an oversized human face on it, cartoonishly, garishly human in all the ways we are human when we fall a little short and don't behave like our best selves, it's comedy. But only when it's on film. (I must admit, my theories about zombies movies reflecting current societal fears felt a *little on the nose* watching this today. In Shaun, the cause of zombies is a fast moving "flu.") Mel Brooks has written some excellent things about the power of laughing at fascists, too.

Shaun of the Dead was my gateway drug to Edgar Wright (and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost). The quick cuts, the cheeky visuals laying out the entire movie for you in the first five minutes but through a really smart, quirky lens that distorts it so even when you know that's what this director does, it doesn't give anything away. The soundtrack full of absolute bangers (that's the term the kids use, right?). The timing! Oh my gosh the timing of sound effects and actions and little cuts and transitions. I guffaw every time I watch this movie when Shaun and Ed are watching the zombie struggle in the garden and Ed starts to wind his little disposable camera. It's not just the action of winding the camera but the absolutely perfect pause preceding it.

This is the first film in the "Three Colours Cornetto" trilogy and Edgar Wright has said much about how it is a reflection of how your twenties can feel. Scary, directionless, and full of so much wanting. Wanting to grow up, wanting to stay a kid, wanting to survive whatever drama is going on right now. I thought a lot about that in looking at the art direction for the film and how the locations were decorated. How many times did I write "sort life out" (or something like it on a dry erase board in my twenties? How often have I done it in my thirties?

And I think that's what I love the most about this movie. It's about something SO grand and absurd that it can't help but be relatable. Who hasn't ignored a major world event because they were busy wallowing in their own day to day problems?

Watercolor & Gouache


-I really love this piece. I feel like I need to hem and haw about it in public, but I really like it. (That being said, I have a lot of critical thoughts that I will spare you. I think it's more important to acknowledge that I like something I did.)

-I took this from the moment when Liz slams the door on Shaun and I only slightly exaggerated the flowers framing his face (and took the jacket off him). It occurred to me on this viewing that "you've got red on you" is such a fantastic and glib commentary on how raw Shaun is through all of this. So in this moment, I really loved that he was framed by greenery.

-It didn't occur to me until I was halfway through but I kind of think I might have to continue this theme through the Cornetto Trilogy? We'll see. I'm really pleased with this one.

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