Shaun of the Dead (US - BD)
Gabe interviews DVDActive's own Wilson Brothers instead of reviewing...
My mind swims with possible things to say about zombie geek darling Shaun of the Dead, but I can’t grab any of them. Every fluttering idea seems to slip through my net, and I’m again left with a blank page. And even if I could slap these thoughts down onto the keyboard, they’d probably be totally unoriginal and pitifully full of blind praise (and there are few things more boring than a nerd yammering on about something you already like).
Then it dawned on me that I could avoid taking about the film, along with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s follow up feature Hot Fuzz, by interviewing two guys that were actually involved with both films—the Wilson brothers! No, not those pretty boys from Texas that work with Wes Anderson all the time, I’m taking about those powerhouse, Brondoesque types ( Wild One Brando, not Island of Dr. Mareau Brando) that played the Biker Twins and the Butcher Bros. They also happen to write reviews for the site. Anyway, on with my brilliant questions.
What is your history with Edgar Wright?
Kevin: On Shaun, there was something about us that Edgar saw in us and seemed to like, as we have been asked back to work on his movies a couple of times since. Edgar is such a sweetie and sure as hell is a fan of exploitation cinema, which certainly endeared him to us.
Is it weird knowing that, thanks to the various Shaun of the Dead posters, your facades (or facade) adorns the walls of geeks the world over? Is it unfair to compare you to the late Farrah Fawcett in this regard?
Kevin: It was a bizarre thing to discover that we were on numerous posters around the world; on the US one-sheet, one of us actually appears twice, would be a scary prospect for anyone who knows us! LOL! As for being compared to the late Ms Fawcett, well that’s awfully flattering and if there are any movie geeks out there who feel the urge to crack one off over us on the poster, then who are we to stop them…? LOL!
Nick: Well, as long as the poster is produced with a nice, wipe-clean material. Anyway, we’re more likely to be compared to the poster of that tennis-playing woman scratching her tradesman’s entrance—all concerned being very close to arseholes!
Did you get any specific direction concerning your zombie performances, or did Edgar Wright take a more Romero route and just let you do your thing?
Kevin: There was a movement choreographer on the shoot, but seeing as we had watched more zombie movies than we cared to admit, we had our zombie shuffle off to a tee. We chatted to Edgar before our first shot and he admitted that though he was a fan of the Three Stooges, he just wanted to stick with the more traditional Romero approach…
I notice that during the 'pretending to be zombies' scene you guys move about the leads in a seemingly impossible matter, appearing in front, behind, and beside the between cuts. Was this in reference to the warping zombies in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead?
Kevin: That scene took a long time to shoot—production actually stopped a few times in order for the sun to disappear behind clouds! LOL!—and Edgar’s fetish for ensuring that he has more than enough coverage meant that there was a plethora of footage and we just happened to be doing slightly different things in different shots—it can be very difficult to direct a bunch of shuffling zombies.
How many times did Jessica Stephenson (Hynes) hit you guys with what I’m assuming was a fake golf club?
Kevin: Our cinematic demise took roughly eight takes; when we rehearsed, we had thick six-inch crash-mats to fall on, but when we arrived on-set, the crash-mats provided were only one-inch thick and resulted in us having sore ribs for a few days afterwards. The stunt guys were impressed with the degree of force, gusto and professionalism we used when chucking ourselves at the ground, but kicking the shit out of each other for a couple of decades was pretty good training. Oh, and Ms Hynes (nee Stevenson) clipped one of us on the finger with the club during one of the takes, but we didn’t hold it against her, as she’s lovely.
Do you guys tend to dress more like the Zombie Twins or the Butcher Brothers in your daily life?
Kevin: We hated the blue denim we had to wear in Shaun—we’re pleased to reveal that we don’t dress like that in real life! Our hearts sank when we were given our outfits—when we met the costumer on Hot Fuzz for fittings, we mentioned how much we loathed the blue denim and he was quite taken aback, saying that he thought it looked pretty cool. We looked like a couple of roadies for Status Quo (a UK rock band)—we have a theory that the Zombie Twins were roadies for the Quo who were ambushed by a group of marauding living dead whilst on the way to Wembley Arena.
What is your favourite under-appreciated flesh eating zombie film? You may pick two if you guys disagree.
Kevin: Hmm…. tricky. Most of the zombie movies we have seen are well-regarded. There are some, like Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh (a.k.a. Hell of the Living Dead) that is utter crap, but can be amusing if you happen to have a good beer or glass of bourbon in your hand. As for a good one, that’s tough—but if you really want a good/crap one, then Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake is a contender; with Nazi Zombies, skinny-dipping nubile female basketball teams and one of the most hilarious lines in exploitation cinema—‘Didn’t she say… where the f**k she was going? She left her bag here!’—how can you possibly lose?
Can you tell us anything about the process behind the 'Don't' trailer?
Kevin: As much as we loved being around Edgar, Simon and all the guys again, Edgar’s ‘Don’t!’ trailer was fun insofar as we had to appear as basement-dwelling, excrement-covered cannibalistic retarded coprophiles (a real stretch…); we had to be smeared from head-to-foot in Nutella (a revolting hazelnut chocolate spread), which was unpleasant in the first place, but once we had arrived on-set and were under the lights, it started to harden and it really began to stink. Needless to say that we have never had the urge to touch the stuff since—how we suffered in the name of art…
To be continued…
I remember when Shaun of the Dead was released on standard definition PAL DVD and blew my mind with it’s clarity. Low budget movies aren’t supposed to look better than expensive movies, especially when they aren’t shot on HD cameras. And now the Blu-ray release goes and looks nearly perfect. The details are sharp and consistent. There is no huge distinction between extreme close-ups and travelling wide-shots. Check out the steady cam trip through the convenience store, and pause to read the products if you don’t believe me. Colours are bright, full, and quite clean, even those reds that produced a bit of blocking on the DVD releases. Noise and grain increases in the dark final act, but are never a major issue, though David’s blue and green stripped shirt mixes a bit awkwardly, and skin tones turn a little uncommonly red. The black levels are deep, but are a bit impure throughout, especially during the last act where they’re overtaken a bit by the warm and cool hues around them. There is some minor edge-enhancement throughout the transfer, but it’s positively miniscule for the most part, and only of the white line variety (‘something like a phenomenon, baby’).
Edgar Wright is full of over-the-top sound effects. Everything he touches is whooshy, zippy, cartoony, and we can only assume this is the way he experiences the world. This DTS-HD version of the Shaun of the Dead 5.1 soundtrack is clearly the best on home video (the HD DVD was pretty quiet overall, not really any better than the DVD versions). The surround effects are more distinctly discreet, and the overall make-up is clean. Single moments of hyper-realistic Foley are rarely lost among the noisier bits, which are plenty. Outside the more obvious aurally attacks and crystal clear dialogues are the subtle and constant murmurs that surround the viewer, whether they be incidental street noises, emergency alarms, or, of course, moaning zombies. The LFE track is a little overwhelming at times, but is only a problem during the scene that plays Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, when the bass drum becomes the central elements. And that takes me to the musical parts of the soundtrack, which exist somewhere between Spaced and a Quentin Tarantino flick. The Spaced stuff is in the brilliant pop music choices, which start with The Specials ‘Ghost Town’, and end with Queen’s ‘Best Friend’. I reference Tarantino because Wright also recycles several soundtrack clips from pertinent films, or at least Dawn of the Dead, which is perhaps the most pertinent film possible. For the original score bits, composers Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford ape Italian horror acts like Goblin ( Dawn of the Dead) and Fabio Frizzi (all the Fulci zombie films) without ripping them off.
There are no new extras with this first time Blu-ray release, but the DVD versions were quite satisfactory the first time ‘round. Things start with four feature length commentary tracks. The first track is the informative one with Wright and Pegg, who fill us in on the filmmaking process in an entertaining and personable manner, while still cracking plenty of jokes. The track is packed full and focused. Pegg knows enough about the actor’s track to cut himself short a few times before repeating info, but Wright could’ve probably managed a full solo track as well. The second track is more fun than informative, but pretty consistent, and features Pegg, Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, and Lucy Davis. The third track which features Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton is more charming than ‘good’, as our participants aren’t really into the whole process. The last track is the ‘zombie’ track, featuring several of the zombie extras, who have a fun enough time, but don’t offer a lot of insight into the process. The track also loses points for not including the Wilsons. Also included for the in-movie experience are the ‘Zomb-O-Meter’ and some storyboards, presented as a U-Control option.
The bulk of the making-of material is found under the ‘Raw Meat’ banner, including Pegg’s video diary (07:00, SD), actress Lucy Davis’ video diary (05:00, HD), Joe Cornish’s video diary (10:20, SD), casting tapes (04:00, SD), a flip chart exploration (13:30, SD), SFX before and after comparisons (02:30, SD), make-up tests (02:20, SD), and an EPK (07:00, SD). The video diaries are the best bits, and cover a medley of subjects from behind the scenes, including make-up, car action, between take boredom, being zombie extras, and Nick Frost’s buttock injection. And then there are the rest of the extras, which are often the hilarious victim of PAL speed-up. Under ‘Missing Bits’ are fifteen extended scenes with optional Wright and Pegg commentary (13:30, SD), and outtakes reel (11:00, SD), ‘The Man Who Would be Shaun’ gag (which they do again on Fuzz), ‘Funky Pete’ (a scene from the TV version, 02:00, SD), and three animated plot hole exploration (03:30, SD). All the fake television appearances made for the film are found under ‘TV Bits’, including T4 with Coldplay (04:20, SD), ‘Fun Dead’ (01:00, SD), two ‘Trisha’ segments (03:00, SD), and ‘Remembering Z-Day’ (02:30, SD). Things are finished up with three image galleries (including the 2000 AD comic strip) and six trailers.
I’m assuming there isn’t much I could possibly say to deter anyone from buying Shaun of the Dead on Blu-ray, short of announcing that Universal had released the film pan-and-scan, with the TV-friendly soundtrack. Things look great, sound great, and though we’ve seen these extras before, we’re not left wanting much new (I suppose a retrospective doc might have been a cool addition, but that can probably wait a few more years). For a continuation of my exclusive chat with the real stars of Shaun, the Wilson Brothers check out my Hot Fuzz review.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 22nd September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director/Writer/Actor Commentary, Actor Commentaries, Extended Scenes, Outtakes, Video Diaries, Casting Tapes, SFX Comparisons, Make-Up Tests, Image Galleries, Storyboards, Zomb-O-Meter
Easter Egg: No
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Lucy Davis, Jessica Stevenson, Kate Ashfield
Genre: Comedy, Horror and Romance
Length: 100 minutes
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