(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#17) Shaun of the Dead
Comedy/Horror • dir. Edgar Wright • 2004 • UK
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Shaun of the Dead is one of the greatest films of my lifetime. Granted, I did see it first time round under unbeatable circumstances. At the annual FrightFest held at London’s Prince Charles Cinema, it was the fourth of four back-to-back horror films and after it finished Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg (director, co-writers, and star, respectively) bowled up for a rip-roaring Q & A. But, then again, my biases even out. Horror really isn’t my cup of tea and my knowledge of the zombie genre, Shaun aside, extends to having seen three George Romero films and Robert Rodriguez’s half of Grindhouse. (Nor, at the time, had I seen Spaced, the cult TV sitcom in which Wright and Pegg first made a name for themselves.)
So what is it that makes Shaun so jolly special? Well, for a start it always remembers what a great many lesser films too quickly forget: that we’re sat in front of it wanting to be entertained. Not for one moment does it ever sag, or outstay its welcome. And it believes in our ability to keep up – with a script that’s happy to sketch, when sketching is all we need, and which is smart without taking undue pride in the fact. The storytelling is just so. It makes sure we’re invested, but keeps rattling along as well. The plot matters, but is never allowed to be the first, last and everything. Wright, Pegg and co. keep the scares coming, yet also never leave out the funny. And no matter all the zombies lurching around, Shaun of the Dead rings resoundingly real. The entrenched ties that keep its characters together, their rivalries and jealousies, and the honest interweaving of affection and antagonism… by no means a movie standard, nothing looks fake or sounds phony. Every time someone says “you twat,” they mean it. And always the right amount.