Shaun of the Dead DVD

UK Region 2, released 6 September 2004

Shaun of the Dead has been something of a cult classic around the UK and parts of Europe, not least because of it being such an excellent spoof of Dawn of the Dead, but also in its own right as a great piece of comedy even with some romance (and plenty of zombies thrown in). Only now is it being released in the USA, so for a change it's us here that gets the DVD release before the cinema release over there, and not the other way around. And sure as hell there's enough extras here on this DVD to really get you in behind the scenes of the film.

For those who haven't seen it, a quick guide: Shaun (SImon Pegg)lives in a shared house with his best mate Ed (Nick Frost) and another guy he used to know from college, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz). Shaun and Pete work, but Ed "works" by selling the odd bit of drugs now and then. Shaun is going out with Liz (Kate Ashfield), but every time they go out they end up in a pub called the Winchester, and they always end up with Ed, and Liz's mates Dianne (Lucy Davis, you'll have seen her from The Office) and David (Dylan Moran). This is getting tedious for Liz and insists Shaun changes or they'll split up. Then the zombies arrive in what's called "Judgement Day" and Shaun's normal life of walking around in a zombie-like state changes as he battles for survival and to save Liz and Ed etc.

Now that doesn't sound much - but what makes the film funny is all the in-jokes and little one-liners throughout that make the film funny. If you've ever seen the comedy Spaced, you'll know the sense of humour, and Simon Pegg is excellent as Shaun, really giving him a convincing, almost loser of a character, not least when playing computer games with Ed. Also, when Shaun and Ed are facing their first zombies to kill, they decide to chuck vinyl records at their heads and they decide which ones to use, sort of like this:

Ed: "Stone Roses?"
Shaun: "No way!"
Ed: "Second Coming?" (Stone Roses' second album, for the uninitiated)
Shaun: "I liked it."
Ed: "Dire Straits?"
Shaun: "Chuck it!"

Another great scene is them flicking through the channels of news reports and it all makes sense despite the channel switching. "There are widespread reports of.." (switch channel and cue Morrissey) "Panic on the streets of London.." and so on. Plenty of moments throughout make the fim funny, like the pub jukebox near the end playing Queen and attracting the zombies towards the main characters,and just tons more. Needless to say if you live in the USA and appreciate obscure English humour, go and see it.

Right then, to the DVD. The film has been really well transferred on the DVD format in all its 2.35:1 anamorphic glory (so if you still have a 4:3 TV, it's going to look pretty small). The 5.1 soundtrack does the job well enough, especially when the zombies are coming in from all quarters - you can hear them nice and clear through the rear speakers. There's no other languages or subtitles apart from English though, which might be a bit offputting to European fans of this film.

However, there is one subtitle track, accessible from the main subtitle menu, called "zomb-o-meter" which is actually a trivia track. Throughout the film it'll explain the key points behind the characters and films, and also some of the phrases used, as some of them are quintessentially English phrases. It also tells you the music used and is really accurate. For example, when Kernkraft 400's "Zombie Nation" plays when Shaun's on the bus, the next subtitle tells you that it actually ripped off the Commodore 64 game "Lazy Jones". Respect to the producers of the DVD for doing their research and indeed for making it understandable for a lot of people.

The extras? Tons of them. I'll deal with them section by section:

Missing Bits: You get lots of extended scenes, ten minutes' worth of outtakes, a spoof impersonation of Michael Caine by Simon Pegg as Shaun (well worth it), and a thing called "Funky Pete" - which uses "funk" instead of the "F" word during one scene to show how it could have been censored. It works really well. Pete has a tirade in one scene and in this remake of the scene instead yells out: "No, it's not. It's funking Sunday. And I've got to go to funking work in four funking hours 'cos every other funker in my funking department is funking ill! Now can you see why I'm SO FUNKING ANGRY?" You get the idea. Also, the Plot Holes explain what happened to some of the characters at key moments and is really well done, with some lush cartoon animation along the way, very 2000AD.

TV Bits: Throughout the film Shaun and Ed watch TV and bits on the TV are extended here to their full versions, so you get two bits of the "Trisha" talk show, an interview with Sky News presenter Jeremy Thompson (who reported the zombie Judgement Day), Fun Dead (a sort of It's a Knockout spoof with the voice of Keith Chegwin) and "T4 with Coldplay" - Vernon Kay on Channel 4's teen bit T4 with the band Coldplay (well, two of them including Chris Martin) - and later on they introduce two new members, who are actually Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in disguise. Most of these are really well written.

Raw Meat: Diaries from most of the cast members made during filming, which are really funny, a flip chart from director Edgar Wright with Simon Pegg, the special effects "before and after" which give a good insight into the film's zombie effects, tests of make up and of course, the almost default "making of" feature all films seem to have nowadays. Pretty nifty, all of it.

Trails of the Dead: Trailers, lots of them, from the Fright Fest 2003, the official teaser and proper trailer, and the TV adverts for the film too. Well worth it.

Audio Commentaries: - commentaires from various members of the cast (different commentary tracks which includes one from Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, who play Shaun's stepdad and mother, and if you're a glutton for punishment, commentary from the zombies themselves. I dread to think that this would be like!

All in all then, what do I think? An excellent package not only containing one of the films of 2004, but plenty of behind the scenes stuff to really get you involved into the film itself and how things all came together. In terms of content and quality it scores pretty high and has to be one of the essential DVD purchases of this year. Run to the shop and buy it - you won't regret it.

Warren's rating: 92%