Recently here at Moviepilot, there was a Movie Feud pitting Shaun of the Dead against Zombieland. Somehow, inexplicably to us, Zombieland emerged as the victor. We here at the Grave Plot Podcast are shocked and appalled and, quite frankly, have no choice but to chalk the results up to two factors; ignorance, and discrimination.
The latter point is addressed immediately in the video that accompanies the article, with Zombieland representative Adam Olinger saying right off the bat that not voting for Zombieland is un-American and the act of a terrorist. This is obviously hyperbole on Adam's part but is, none the less, nothing more than a scare tactic to try and get the 'Murrica crowd on his side. The fact remains that Shaun of the Dead is just the better made movie from top to bottom.
Zombieland is a film made to cash in on a fad, a fad that could, in many ways, be traced back to... Shaun of the Dead. Released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead was released around the same time as the remake of Dawn of the Dead (in fact its release was actually pushed back two weeks in the UK to avoid confusion) and the two, along with Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide, arguably pushed the current trend of movies based on the undead further into fruition. Zombieland came out five years later, with the zombie fad deep into effect.
While it is, at its core, a romantic comedy, it is still a zombie movie for fans of zombie movies. I hate to lump it in with the Dawn of the Dead remake because, ironically, Shaun of the Dead seemed to respect the source material more than the movie that bore the same name. The remake took the infected people from 28 Days Later (who were not zombies) and transformed them into undead super-athletes (or, as we refer to them, the "run-dead"). Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, on the other hand, respected the mythology behind the zombie and kept theirs as slow, plodding ghouls. As Pegg put it in one interview, "death is not an energy drink." Shaun was also a passion project of both Pegg and Wright. The film spawned from a mutual love and passion of horror films, namely zombie films, that was discovered on the set of the sitcom Spaced. You can feel the passion and love in the film, while Zombieland has more of a manufactured, almost "corporate" feeling to it, if that's possible.
Aside from the use of classic zombie movie tropes, proof that Shaun of the Dead was made for zombie movie fans came be further found in the many homages the film bears to its inspirations. For example, the opening score to the movie is the exact same as the opening of the original Dawn of the Dead. The most blatant reference would be Ed telling Shaun's mom "We're coming to get you, Barbara!," an obvious homage to Night of the Living Dead. There are also references to Ken Foree (Peter from the original Dawn of the Dead), Ashley Williams (the main character of the Evil Dead franchise), and John Landis (the director of Thriller).
As we stated earlier, Shaun of the Dead is just the better made film. There are small nuances within the movie that make each watch entertaining, no matter how times you've seen it. There is foreshadowing (such as [SPOILER ALERT] Pete telling Ed to go live in the shed, which he later does after becoming a zombie) and small plot points that seem irrelevant at the time, but turn out to be quite interesting on later watches. The characters and their relationships are also more believable because they aren't big huge personalities; Shaun is a screw up, Ed is a lazy slob, Liz is an irritated girlfriend that wants Shaun to grow up. These are normal people that we can all relate to, not big over-embellished characters like Columbus, Tallahassee or Wichita that you have to boil down to their very cores to find any semblance of relatability. Not to mention, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are actual best friends, which gives their dynamic even more juice.
This is not a knock on Zombieland, as it is a fun movie in its own right. However, shave away the "he/she's so hot right now" actors and pop culture references of, as we like to call it, "Generation CW", and Zombieland is little more than a post-apocalyptic zombie survival film, something we've seen COUNTLESS times. Yes, it has Woody Harrelson, and yes, he is funny. But unless you previously knew him as Woody Boyd or Billy Hoyle, I'm going to guess that the average Zombieland fan had little to no idea who Harrelson was before this movie. A lot of them were likely not even born when Woody Boyd tended bar, or when Billy Hoyle played ball.
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And to call back to the episode of Movie Feud once again, yes, Bill Murray is in the movie. Yes, Bill Murray is a king of comedy. But please let us remind you of something; Bill Murray is in the movie for a grand total of 5 minutes.
Let's go over that again. Bill Murray is in the movie for FIVE minutes. That is 6% of the entire movie. So not only is he not a member of the central cast, he is in the movie LESS time that some of the EXTRAS. Now, you are no longer allowed to love Zombieland simply because Bill Murray is in it.
All in all, Shaun of the Dead simply has more respect for the genre. It also has a more relatable cast, more intelligent comedy, and most importantly, better and ACTUAL zombies.
For more fun facts and cheap laughs, check out our first edition of "Drunken Cinema," featuring Shaun of the Dead, at www.graveplotpodcast.com.