Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead parodies the horror film, Dawn of the Dead, through a satirical approach. Although this film is labeled in the realm of horror genre, it obviously provokes an outburst of comedic events throughout the course of the story.
Watching this film multiple times, you immediately discover elements that went unnoticed during the initial viewing. Considering that it falls into the low budget bracket, the production value is reminiscent of high caliber Hollywood releases. My focus will be geared towards the acting, symbolic meaning, foreshadowing, editing and cinematography elements.
The acting performance never lacked. The main character of the film, Shaun (played by Simon Pegg), provides the audience with an effective representation of a man that must solve his personal struggles with his family, friends and girlfriend. During these troubling times, Shaun's tribulations are challenged by the walking dead. In the Jaguar car scene where his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy), passes away, he shows extreme sympathy for a man that has plagued his existence. Philip tries to explain his behavior over the years during the waning moments leading to his death. Shaun brushes him off like his problems.
Normally a rigid man, Phillip profusely sheds tears of hurt, sorrow and regret for his past actions. Shaun displays the most accurate response to the suppression of compassion that he contains for Phillip. His teary eyes, quivering mouth movement and dreary expression captivates his hurtful suffering. He realizes that Phillip has always loved him and was a proud father. Even though Philip couldn't replace a biological father, Shaun never gave him a chance to prove himself.
The best friend, Ed (Nick Frost), depicts a sidekick that showcases the alto ego of Shaun. In the exterior Winchester Pub scene, Shaun explodes on Ed for his inconsiderate actions on using his cellular phone during the climatic presence of the flesh eating zombies. Shaun realizes that Ed has taken advantage of his kind nature since childhood. This suggests that what he has done to others is clearly surfacing in the actions of his best friend. Ed attempts to interrupt, but Shaun establishes his dominance. Their performance is similar to a real life sibling rivalry confrontation.
Even though this film is a parody directed toward zombies, it's easy to notice the valuable friendship that Shaun and Ed share. Their actions provoke more comedy than the humorous dialogue. They finish each others sentences and anticipate actions. They switch positions on killing two zombies because of their size. This event occurred without any dialogue interaction. Shaun and Ed have a strong friendship that can never be divided.
Where would Shaun's life go if the zombies didn't show up? He fails to notice the zombies during the early stages of the film. His conflicting life is the perfect example of the barrier that he places between his problems and amusing lifestyle. The zombies serve as a metaphor for his inner personal struggles. As he strolls to the local convenience store, chaos surrounds him in every direction. He neglects to survey the unfolding disaster.
Every possible clue is present, but he only focuses on his own selfish needs. People attempt to ignore societal complexities. Once Shaun learns of the zombies, he makes the attempt to eliminate them. His problems and the zombies were obviously noticeable, but he never expands the sphere outside of his own existence.
Shaun's mother, Phillip, roommate and Liz (played by Kate Ashfield) recognized his inefficient treatment of their generosity. Shaun suffers from a short attention span. He buys flowers for his mother and then tries to give them to Liz. When she declines on accepting the flowers, he throws them into a waste basket. The flowers serve as a solution to the contrasting tension that he inflicted on his mother.
Again, he tries to dispose the obvious problem of his immature nature. He pouts because he can't have things his way. He always tries to take the convenient route which travels around his problems. In the backyard scene, he mentions of taking a shortcut to David. This constitutes the common practice throughout the course of his life. He takes shortcuts to avoid problems. The revelation of his practical behavior is answered in the basement scene. The zombies solve his problems, but at the expense of his family and friends.
Only if he realized these issues early on, he could have offered amends. Phillip and his mother depart the film with closure. They eradicate any misunderstanding that arises with Shaun. The mother finds the flowers and thanks him. She discovers the problem and notices its intent. The life altering experience helps him solve the problems that previously remained dormant in his conscious. The friends for life concept is established when Shaun plays video games with his zombie best friend. He locks away the nucleolus of his past troubles.
Every major zombie character is introduced in their normal human form. The people that Shaun fail to acknowledge become the focal point of his obstacles. When they transform into zombies, he finally reaffirms his attention on their existence. The garden scene with Mary and his lack to not notice his missing mother in the backyard scene, leading up to the entrance of the Winchester Pub, are perfect examples of his forgetful characteristics. The transformation these humans make into zombies also coincide with his life problems.
While they're minor in the beginning, the foreshadowing of their importance illuminate the early stages of the human spectatorship. They serve as the audience to his morphing struggles. The scene location of the Winchester Pub foreshadows the creation of his problems and the eventual solution to eliminating them.
The mise en scene showcases the humor of the film. Early on, everything occurs in the background and mirrors Shaun's attention span. This film makes makes you, as a spectator, want to warn the characters of the unfolding events. Shaun only becomes serious after he senses fear in lives beyond his own. When relationships are stretched thin, conflicts reunites the bond that was broken. The zombies challenged Shaun's fate, restored balance and made him aware of his damaging behavior. As an adult, Shaun was expected to be responsible. His child tactics made him a weak character.
When conflict increased, he was able to confront his fears of growing up and finally flourished as a strong character. Shaun's perception was more clear about life. He was willing to take risks. Without risks, success is limited in society. When the fate of family and friends lies in the balance of an irrational individual, decisions have to be made quickly. Decision force people to grow up. The ignorance of Shaun changed once he realized his surroundings, his attitude and the importance of maturity.
Shaun of the Dead is a zombie horror movie about inner personal struggles. The protagonist only changed when he is confronted with the fear of losing the loved ones that put up with his antics. Zombies contrasted the problems that Shaun ignored in the early stages of the film. When he becomes aware of the Zombies, he faces his problems. So in a sense, the zombies were a form of rehabilitation. If there were no zombies, Shaun would continue on his rampage of immaturity. The zombies were disguised as psychologists that were responsible for his treatment. Shaun rekindled his lost bond with people he loved most.
As the movie ending seemed unclear, the reappearance of Ed established a happy moment not utilized in classic horror films. This film fits the profile of a horror/comedy, intertwined to retain focus on the audience. We see the inner struggles of Shaun, and then watch this pain heal. So when the zombies come out, be prepared to change or they will do it for you.