Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pub Crawl

This represents an accidental failure on my part: My personal challenge for this October was to best last year's tally of films and first viewings. Last year, I posted 37 first viewings, representing my entire tally of films. I had one level of failure last year, in so far as I wanted to write about every film I saw, but I skipped out on writing about Stay, always intending to return to it and never quite getting around it. I'm behind on viewings this year, so I'll be lucky to make the minimums. And I went to a party last night where one of the central entertainments was a showing of Shaun of the Dead (2004, directed by Edgar Wright). I suppose I can take some solace in the fact that I've never actually written about Shaun of the Dead, and, for that matter, I could just not count it, but there's no sense in being stubborn. As I say, I'm behind this year.

I liked Shaun of the Dead a lot way back when it was in theaters (which seems like just yesterday, I should add). I never bothered to watch it again, so I'm not part of the film's cult, I suppose. I don't own it on DVD, either. I don't know that this should be construed as indifference. Life just moved on for me. Watching it again was almost like watching it fresh and, well, I still like it lots. It's a terrific send-up of the zombie movie--perhaps the best send-up of the zombie movie, which has become something of a genre unto itself since Shaun came out. It's a stickler for the rules of Romero's zombie films, so there are not rage-y running zombies in this movie and it even makes a point to mock the premise of 28 Days Later and it's zombies. It manages all of the critique of consumer culture Romero ever dreamed of for his movies. The line between average everyday living and being a zombie has never been blurred as much as in this film. Like Romero, it postulates that the living dead are attracted to places that were "important" to them once, and, this being British, that place isn't the mall, it's the pub. And that's just brilliant.

Playing by the rules of the genre are the key. This is the lesson Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright take from Young Frankenstein: make the film as if it was a serious entry in the genre you're parodying. If it can stand as bona fide zombie film, then the rest will come. To this end, the filmmakers have a fine eye for mimesis. It gets the world right before it starts finding the humor there. The fun part of this is the oblique way the film lets the audience piece all of this together from elements in the background before it lets its characters know where they are. There's very much a sense of a world in chaos lurking in the background. It's interesting the way this film puts that genie back into the bottle with a variant of Romero's unfilmed Twilight of the Dead, in which the zombies become a commodity for the survivors.

Edgar Wright's directorial style is distinctive. No detail, no matter how quotidian is unworthy of style. The result is a kind of restless, hyperactive film, but this suits the genre, whether you're talking about a horror movie or a comedy. My favorite piece of pure WTF styling is Shaun's repeated encounters with his own distaff opposite number. There's a history between the two, but no hint of a relationship, nor even any real impact on the central narrative. It's just there for the gag. This is pure Godardian filmmaking, in which things are put on screen solely because the filmmakers feel like it. This can be self-indulgent, of course, and Wright isn't immune to that, but it can also be joyous, too. It's mostly joyous here. The film feeds off that joy.

Current tally: 19 films

First time viewings: 18

Around the Web:

Dr.AC over at Horror 101 is on a furious pace this year. He's blogging for charity, as am I, so pay him a visit and pledge to the cause.

Lee Price continues his own examination of The Golem over on 21 Essays.


Laura said...

Ahh, Shaun of the Dead. The movie that introduced me to Bill Nighy. And Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. But more importantly Bill Nighy.

Not that the awesomeness of Simon Pegg should be undercut. His Scotty was one of the few parts of the new Star Trek movie I actively liked, even if it was far different from James Doohan's original take.

Oh, and Shaun of the Dead also introduced me to the band i Monster, for which I'll forever be grateful. In fact, the whole movie's soundtrack is dependably great.

Chris Hewson said...

Don't feel too bad, not only have I meant to get reviews for a horror six-pack up on my blog, but reviews for the Howling series as well, and I've got about three of the former up and procrastination is stopping me from getting the rest up, and me being too busy or probably just unconscious common sense is stopping me from watching/reviewing the Howling series.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Laura,

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (and Edgar Wright) are all pretty awesome. Shaun led me to Spaced, for which I am forever grateful.

Hi, Chris,

I have to admire the fortitude of anyone who soldiers through The Howling movies past, oh, say, the third film. Or the first for that matter. Oh, and I LOVE the title of your blog.

Chris Hewson said...

Thanks, although it's kind of a misnomer so far as a lot of what I've reviewed so far has been horror from the 90's and 2000's! And random stuff from the 70's!