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Blu-ray Review: Shaun of the Dead

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When it was released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead was a unique ZomRomCom (zombie romantic comedy) which became an instant cult hit. It has now arrived on Blu-ray and it shines in this format in nearly every way.

The Movie

At its heart Shaun of the Dead is a love story revolving around perennial slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his estranged girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Of course every love story has a complication; in this movie it just happens to be a zombie epidemic in their country. Shaun spends most of his days hanging out with his friend Ed (Nick Frost) at home or at the local pub, the Winchester. He continually neglects his girlfriend and his family, more out of apathy then any real intent.

click to view larger imageShaun works at an electronics store and has a regular routine. After letting Liz down one more time she finally dumps Shaun and he drowns his sorrows at the Winchester with Ed. On their way home you can see that zombies are starting to rise, and of course Ed and Shaun are clueless to the peril. Staying up very late, Shaun passes out with a vow to get his life back in order.

The following morning Shaun follows his routine and heads to the store. The city is desolate, bodies are everywhere, and hilariously Shaun never notices. Once he returns home he and Ed discover a girl in their backyard. They confront her and after accidentally dropping her on a pipe they finally realize something is not right. Heading inside they listen to the news and see that there is a zombie uprising. Arming themselves first with records as projectiles, then more effective weapons (a cricket bat and shovel), Shaun and Ed head off to save Liz, then Shaun’s mom, and then to the Winchester (of course) to wait out the zombie disaster.

click to view larger imageWhat follows is a series of hilarious, then horrifying, then heartbreaking, and then hilarious again moments which are truly hard to define. The trio of Pegg, Frost, and director Edgar Wright create many memorable moments and the film oozes camaraderie. It is clear everyone likes each other, is comfortable around each other, and feed off each other in scenes.

Shaun of the Dead is a true classic zombie movie that has everything you need in a proper zombie film — blood, guts, twists, weapons, and mayhem with drama and romance thrown in. The true magic in this film is the approach, the characters, the humor, and the ease with which you are pulled into this world. This is a must see and one of my favorite movies of this generation.

The Video

click to view larger imageShaun of the Dead makes its first Blu-ray appearance on a great 1080p, 2.35:1 aspect ratio transfer. The film was shot incredibly well and it shows in the quality of this transfer. Lighting, fine detail, and color depth are all handled incredibly well with small details and colors being very defined and recognizable. The black levels during the night and pub scenes are not flawless, but they are relatively deep and nothing is lost in any sort of muddiness.

Film Grain is not overused and edging is never in appearance giving every scene a sharp, crisp look. The angles used in many cases present a depth of field approach that carries over well in the high resolution transfer. You can almost touch the image at times with the effective film work and transfer quality lending a nearly 3D feel to the scenes. Slightly better black levels and consistent skin tone treatments (they sometimes appear off color) would have made this great transfer perfect.

The Audio

click to view larger imageFeaturing a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack Shaun of the Dead sounds spectacular on this Blu-ray release. The soundtrack is nearly flawless in its presentation of ambient noise, musical score, and dialogue. The surround mix is incredibly effective with sound issuing appropriately (and at great levels) from the entire speaker setup immersing you completely into the environment.

Bass is used to great effect with your subwoofer getting a great workout, but not in a needless way. The deep thrums of trucks or guns booming are used to great effect and enhance, not distract you from, an enjoyable experience. Music and dialogue are handled very well with conversations easily discernible even when many other sounds are being generated. A great soundtrack and one that enhances your viewing experience by nature of its quality.  Some small distortions (very rare) prevent this from being a perfect mix… but just barely.

The Extras

click to view larger imageThere is not much here that was not released in previous DVD versions, but all the extras, especially the audio commentaries are great to listen/watch and definitely warrant third/fourth/fifth viewings of the movie. The group commentaries, in particular the Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis and Kate Ashfield track, are a blast to listen to. I nearly choked on the drink I had when all the cast started imitating Bill Nighy’s deep monotone for a while. The video extras are all of good quality but unfortunately they are all presented in stereo 480p mode. HD treatments of these bits would have gone a long way with many fans.

  • Audio Commentary with director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg – This is a very lively and entertaining track; Pegg and Wright have worked together for years (watch the British series Spaced, truly hilarious) and it shows on this track. Some off the wall comments, tangents, and great observations litter this track.
  • Audio Commentary with Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis and Kate Ashfield – These are my favorite types of commentary tracks. When the entire principle cast (or most of them) are on hand you get some great interactions and while not as good as the first commentary, this one is quite good.
  • Audio Commentary with Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton – The actors who play Shaun’s parents have their own relatively dry and sparse track. Some interesting points here and there, but hard to sit through in its entirety.
  • Audio Commentary with the Zombies – A great concept, this track features many of the background characters who played notable zombies. A very tongue in cheek approach on this discussion and some very funny conversation strings.
  • Missing Bits – This extra gives us 15 extended or incomplete scenes that flesh out or bloat the story as well as a great collection of outtakes which are, unsurprisingly, quite funny.
  • Raw Meat – This is a nice selection of video diaries and making of bits that further flesh out the experience. Fans of the film will love the extra insight shared in this feature.
  • Galleries: Two photo galleries showcasing the zombies and storyboards used for the film.
  • D-Box – D-Box functionality is available for those with the hardware to use it.
  • U-Control – A Universal branded feature that gives you a Storyboards and Zomb-O-Meter options. Storyboards overlays storyboards on certain scenes to compare them and the Zomb-O-Meter features a trivia track during playback.
  • BD-Live – Universal’s My Scenes feature, a generally throw away BD-Live tool that lets you bookmark your favorite scenes and share them with others around the world.

The Final Word

Shaun of the Dead is a truly terrific film that blends humor, horror and drama all into a wonderful package. This Blu-ray presentation does the film justice, giving us a stellar aural and visual presentation and a slew of extras to further enhance the experience. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes a great movie experience.

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.