I watched it once on DVD, and for WEEKS I was obsessed with dissecting it. That’s the aha moment where I knew I had an interest in the film industry.– Melissa
by Christopher Roberts
Hi everyone, another month another ‘Their Favourite Film’ post, this time with my friend Melissa Evans. Melissa is an SFX artist specialising in the more gruesome stuff. Her work has included How to Survive the End of the World and Don’t Open the Box. Melissa is however now expanding her talents and has started acting. She recently landed a leading role in James Wilsher’s new short, The Fear. So, with that, let’s hear what Melissa has to say about her Favourite Film, the Rom-Zom-Com Shaun Of The Dead.
MelisSA EVANS – Shaun of The Dead
I’ve got to go with the film that first sparked my interest in the world of SFX make-up really, which is the film Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Edgar Wright. My first memory of watching this film calls back to when I was about Fourteen, and I was an adolescent beginning to find my identity and what I would continue to enjoy in my adult life. I watched it once on DVD, and for WEEKS I was obsessed with dissecting it. That’s the aha moment where I knew I had an interest in the film industry. It was also the moment my then-first boyfriend, who showed it to me and then immediately regretted his life choices that led him to show me that film. Whoops! Not even sorry. I was truly, creatively captivated in every way.
I’ve always been an imaginative person, I even began trying to dress like ‘Diane’ (one of the characters) and rekindled my love for fashion from the era, now popularly known as the “Y2K aesthetic”, eight years prior to this trend. At the time, my peers saw me as odd, but I did it before it was cool again – just saying! Anyhow, I digress, but That’s how much this film stirred inquisitiveness in my little brain.
That’s when my research for a Halloween look began, leading me to delve further into the make-up behind Shaun of the Dead and where my enjoyment surrounding make-up, SFX and the horror film genre spring-boarded from.
I think my favourite film is also, partially, a controversial choice as it’s not explicitly accredited for the SFX involved; also it isn’t a classic Hollywood blockbuster like many other fan favourites of its genre, people may have grown up on, such as IT or Alien. Here’s the thing – This was Wright’s first feature film production, following on from a small yet bizarre comedy series on Channel 4 he had created, called SPACED. It also was the first of what turned into a trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as lead roles, called ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’ due to the ice cream becoming a staple item in his creations with these two protagonists.
No one expected this production to be as legendary as it was, even himself. It was just this budgeted horror-comedy with a side of romance involved, that nods to a couple of household name filmmakers, like Tarrantino and Raimi. They went from some recently graduated, film and drama student nobodies in London, to a film that casually features iconic legends such as Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton.
The storyline is so chaotic and the dialogue is ridiculous running along themes of a classic zombie movie. It sounds like a fever dream you might have after a big night out. On paper, it shouldn’t work. But it does! You’ve got to hand it to them. Not to mention it has so many easter eggs linked to horror and pop culture, of what was nostalgic to people or relative to people’s (especially British people) everyday lives at the time. It was also the film debut film, for many (now) household names – like Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran. Also featuring cameos of Jessica Hynes, Rafe Spall, Matt Lucas and Tamsin Grieg, who were small then, but look at their successes now!
I think the film is artistically genius, witty and with a lot of irony – taking the absolute mickey out of a variety of songs, tv shows and films, matched with some talented script writing, it’s very clever. What’s not to love?
Christopher Roberts –
The zombie genre is one of the biggest genres in the horror franchise. Ever since George A. Romero revamped the genre in 1962 with his classic Night of the Living Dead, creating the iconic look of the rotten slow-moving undead creatures and setting the rules for future films. Since then, the genre grew to a pulp-culture status, with companies making films, tv shows, videos, books and everything in-between.
I was one of the many people obsessed with the zombie genre ever since I saw Night of the Living Dead when I was young. I used to watch and read anything relating to them: I would go on zombie walks dressing up like the undead, I even used to picture and plan how I would survive the fictional apocalypse. However, despite my love for the genre, even I have to admit that the genre has gone stale.
Over the years, countless films have been made, some of which did change the rules a bit, trying to bring something new, like changing the zombies from the slow walking undead to the infected that can run so fast that they’ll put Usain Bolt to shame. However, in the end, the stories are always the same, zombies are everywhere, and the protagonist with a small group tries to survive, only to find out the actual monsters are the ones still living. Now some of the people reading this have probably had a few zombie films pop up in their heads matching that description, proving my point. It seems the genre, like that of the undead, was going to stumble along, offering nothing new, that is, until Edgar Wright decided to make a Rom-Com out of one.
Now at first glance, rom-coms and zombie films seem like an odd mix, but they actually complement each other perfectly. In a Rom-Com it’s usually the same – someone has to deal with a situation while trying to find love, which ultimately helps them evolve as a person and in doing so, find love. On the other hand – Zombie films are different, the best ones aren’t really about zombies. They’re more or a less “A Mcguffin”, something to use, to help push the story and the characters along, many of which can be replaced with something else and the story can more or less continue the same way. So with that, you have two genres – one that needs a hurdle to move the story and one that has a hurdle but needs a story. Thinking about them like this, It just makes sense a film about romance can work with one about the horde of the undead.
Shaun of the Dead did this combination brilliantly, blending the genes so perfectly that it doesn’t feel forced as it goes from rom-com to zombie movie, but still keeps both elements throughout the movie. The genre mixed alone would have made it an interesting film and a stand out from the usual zombie movie, but Edgar Wright made it a cult classic. Like a lot of his films, its filled with hilarious and quotable dialogue as well as visual gags; added with his fast pace editing and camera shorts made for some memorable scenes (death by vinyl records is a particular favourite that springs to mind).
Lastly, the British twist on the zombie trope was genius. In most American zombie films, the survivors stay in large shopping malls or heavily fortified buildings to survive. Only a true Englishman would think to hide in a pub, have a pint and wait for all of this to blow over. So, like Melissa mentioned, on paper, the film makes for uncertainty, but thanks to Edgar Wright and his cast, he manages to bring new life to the undead.
George A Romeo loved the film so much that he asked Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright to cameo in his
next film, Land of The Dead
Chris Roberts has worked on many film projects across Essex as a boom operator and production assistant. Chris is a full time film trivia expert!
Melissa Evans is a make-up artist specialising in SFX and gore.