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Terrifying Tuesdays: Dawn vs. Shaun, or Why I Loved the Zombie Movies of 2004

Of The Dead

I didn’t realize, until a recent rewatch of both of these films, that Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead came out the same year. (Incidentally, Kill Bill, Vol. 2 also came out in 2004. It was apparently a good year for films that I dig.) Gather round the food court or pull up a stool at the Winchester as I share why these are two of my favorite zombie movies.

First of all, let me say that I have rarely seen a zombie movie I didn’t at least appreciate. (I think this is due in part to the fact that I don’t watch a lot of the low-budget zombie movies. There are too many awesome things in the world for me to waste my time on them unless someone just says, “OMG YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS!”) While these two are my favorite zombie movies, I have to point out that I also love the original and 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. I love the comic horror of Return of the Living Dead. I liked Planet Terror‘s Grindhouse sensibility. I was scared shitless by Pontypool. (It’s a zombie movie of sorts, but so simple and creepy.) I’ll even argue with zombie movie purists about whether or not 28 Days Later is a zombie movie. (It is. No, they’re not dead, technically, and they’re fast, but they’re brain dead killers compelled by something other than their own free will.)

Now, on to today’s double feature.

Let’s start with Dawn of the Dead. I love this movie. Yeah, I love the original, too, but there’s something about this one that speaks to me. It starts out with Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” playing over horrific scenes as the zombie plague unfolds, and the action starts almost immediately. Can we all just appreciate Sarah Polley’s dramatic getaway from her zombie husband and how crazy it gets? Then, when she meets the rest of the crew and they all head to the mall, I’m in. Zack Snyder did a great job of making it an old school zombie movie with a modern edge. I know, I know. People don’t like Zack Snyder for one reason or another, but this was the film that made me a fan. There are so many things to like here–a pre-Phil Dunphy Ty Burrell who is the penultimate snark dealer (I use his “Oh, sarcasm, that is awesome” line all the time), Ving Rhames being Ving Rhames, a zombie celebrity lookalike shooting gallery, lots of zombies, and Richard Cheese singing “Down With The Sickness”. (Oh, how I love the opening of the song: “Do ya feel that? Ohhhhhhhhhh, shit.”) It’s not a story with a happy ending, and that’s the beauty of it. Sure, we don’t see the fate of our intrepid survivors, but we know the score. (I would say, “Spoilers,” but it’s a nine year old remake of a 45 year-old movie. If you haven’t seen it, that’s on you, friend.)

And now we come to Shaun of the Dead. The word “love” does not aptly describe how I feel about this movie. Honestly, should I ever run into Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, or Nick Frost in public, I want to hug them for what they’ve done with this film and pretty much everything else they’ve ever been involved with together. (Seriously. The Cornetto Trilogy? Spaced? Everything that is right with the world.) If somehow you’ve missed this film, it’s a British romantic comedy with zombies. Yes, it’s hilarious and completely British in the best way, but there are some perilous and sweet moments as well. I remember going to see it at the theatre with Mr. Geeky V, and we laughed really loudly at a particular zombie, perhaps inappropriately, but it still gets me to this day. But also, when the last credits rolled, I wanted to see it again. SoTD is one of those movies for me that I can turn on, whether edited for TV or not, and watch until the end. I’ve seen parts of it a dozen times or more, and it never gets old. (As a matter of fact, I watched part of it over the weekend, and I’m most likely going to fire it up again at least once before Halloween.) Again, this one is well-cast, and features a lot of familiar faces if you’re a fan of British comedies. It features stars of The Office, Spaced, and Black’s Books(And if you’ve never seen any of these series, head to Netflix now and check them out. Start with Spaced. Then watch The IT Crowd. I know, I know. No one from that show is in this movie, but it’s so good. Then move to Black’s Books, and finish with The Office. Then, go to YouTube and find clips of old French and Saunders comedy sketches. Then you should probably go outside or to work or something. Hmmm…methinks I should write a post about British comedy at some point.)

In many ways, these films are different, but they represent what zombie movies can be. They don’t have to be heavy-handed and preachy, or even horribly cheesy. They can be smart, witty, and full of heart. They can be funny with a few scary moments or scary with a few funny moments. Take a look at these two films this Halloween season and enjoy the possibilities!

So what about you, gentle readers? What zombie movies do you gravitate to this time of year? Any you’d recommend? Feel free to comment!

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