13
Apr 04

The rule of the comic horror movie is simple.

Do You SeePost a comment • 281 views

The rule of the comic horror movie is simple. The monster is not funny. This is what An American Werewolf In London and Shaun Of The Dead understand. The remarkable thing about Shaun Of The Dead is it understands this whilst co-opting one of the funniest monsters, zombies. Slow, weak, easy to outrun, not even that hard to kill, George Romero’s zombies are pretty lame villains. They are funny themselves, without ever undermining their true nature. To take the piss out of vampires, the vampires have to step out of character.

What Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg saw in the original Dawn Of The Dead was possibly not what was intended. The zombies are, generally, spectacularly useless. Compared to the new retooled Dawn with the snarling, running zombies and you wondered why anyone would ever get a sleepless night. Except these slow, brainless, shuffling zombies are us after death, the uselessness of the human condition made flesh. As Shaun Of The Dead imagines it, there is not an awful lot of difference between a zombie and a very pissed person. Except one is after human innards and the other pork scratchings. There is something admirable about the power of the zombies in the new Dawn Of The Dead’s, much like vampires they seem like souped up, if evil, humans. There is nothing attractive about the zombies in the old Dawn.

So Shaun Of The Dead sets up its situation (and this is nothing if not an expert situation comedy) and runs with it. The situation is the oldest in the romantic comedy book, our hero has been dumped by his girlfriend and needs to prove to her he is worthwhile. The zombies could be irrelevant and we would still be in a film significantly more convincing than anything Richard Curtis has tossed out in the last ten years. If there was one thing that Spaced did well, it was capture the minutiae of a slack generation. The film opens this out a touch, but it gets the shared house hell, the 29 year old panic and the potential salvation in disaster. The comedy is in the characters, not the situation. As, surprisingly, is the emotion.

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