PictureShaun of the Dead was previously released over two years ago on HD DVD, back when the format was alive, and it looked pretty damn good in High Definition, so it is unsurprising that the new Blu-ray release - which is indistinguishable visually - looks just as good. Detail is excellent throughout, and the movie has that wonderful, fresh Brit feel to it, unhampered by all the Hollywood gloss that is layered on across the pond. There is some inherent softness and a smattering of grain - particularly noticeable during the darker, more poorly-lit sequences - but you can forgive a great deal when you consider the kind of meagre budget that they were playing with. The colour scheme is typically British, with some sun, but mostly cloudy skies, and lush greens to pepper town landscape. Everything comes across as looking authentic and realistic, and the transfer certainly does wonders with quite limited material. Blacks falter somewhat, again affected by the aforementioned grain, but it really doesn't impinge upon your enjoyment of this fantastically fun film. Far from the kind of rendition that you could use to show off you High Def equipment with, this 1080p presentation of the movie, in its original theatrical format of 2.35:1 widescreen, is perfectly acceptable - and understandable - and is probably the best we are ever going to see from this film.
SoundOn the aural front we encounter the same budgetary restrictions. But even though this may not be Blockbuster material, it still makes for a quality, enjoyable soundtrack and it comes across well here. Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, presented clinically across the fronts and centre channels. The effects are surprisingly dynamic, and allow a fair amount of surround use, zombie rumblings creating quite an effective atmosphere, with screeching cars, crashes, smashes and plenty of zombie-splay thuds to bring the drama into your living room. Screams echo out and we even get a few thundering shot-gun-shots. The score is perfectly suited to the material, allowing the cast to play it straight and adding to the tension, all the while intentionally adding to the satirical hilarity of the matter. This may by a track of highs and lows - it does involve plenty of quieter, more dialogue-based moments, interspersed with zombie encounters - but overall it comes across very well on Blu-ray. Again, you can't even consider it as reference material, but this is still the best we are ever likely to hear from a perfectly decent aural rendition.
ExtrasThe extras accompanying Shaun of the Dead have always been something of a bone of contention amidst fans, as - depending on which release you pick up - there are different extras to be found. The original UK SD DVD release offered arguably the definitive collection of material, and many subsequent releases have only ported over a portion of this. Both the DVD and HD DVD releases in the States suffered from an incomplete set of extras - although few could complain as, frankly, few have probably actually trawled through all of them. Now this new US Blu-ray release finally has everything on it, all the Commentaries, all the extras, everything. And boy, is there a lot to plough through.
First up we get no less than four (!!!) full-length Audio Commentaries, the first with the writing duo of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. They talk about their inspiration for this movie, their work together on Spaced and how well they get on together - and know each other's humour - as well as highlighting some of the movie's many references (although this is arguably unnecessary, as the trivia track does the job more effectively). They discuss their love for the movies that they are attempting to send up and generally provide a very interesting, anecdotal but informative track for fans to listen to.
The second track, whilst sporting the majority of the main cast members - including Pegg and Frost, who are accompanied by Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis and a few others - is quite a disorganised offering, with the chirpy contributors swamping the listener with an almost indiscernible babble of comments, often showing that they had much fun making the movie, but spending too much time enjoying watching it again (perhaps even for the first time as a group) rather than giving us anything of real value. It's nice to have cast contributions - I tend to prefer them to the Director's tracks, particularly when the Director is quite quiet and contemplative - but this is not the case here, as the track with Wright and Pegg effectively gives you the best of both worlds: Director's contributions, contributions from the writers and comments from one of the Actors, all condensed into a manageable offering by just the two key individuals.
The other two tracks are, admittedly, a little overkill. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilson - who play Shaun's parents - offer up their own Commentary - which very much sounds like the kind of thing some real parents would say about the movie, making a nice alternative to the Cast Commentary, but serving little use really, and The Zombie Commentary is a bit of a gimmick, offering five of the moaning undead the opportunity to comment on the film.
The Zomb-O-Meter Trivia Track is great fun, helping you spot all the little references throughout, and the Storyboard Comparison Track allows you to compare scenes from the movie to storyboards done for them, whilst watching the film.
Let's deal with the Raw Meat next, a section which includes most of the Pre-Production and Production stuff, from Simon Pegg and Lucy Davis' Video Diaries (Simon's Cam and Lucy's Cam respectively), to Make-up Tests, Casting Tapes, A Comparative Special Effects Featurette (Before and After) as well as Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart: a brief look at the notes made prior to the script, and a Making-Of Featurette, which is the only weak link - a standard EPK Featurette.
The Missing Bits is my favourite section, housing 14 funny Extended Scenes, some hilarious Outtakes and Plot Holes, which serves to enhance your understanding of what happened in the film. The Extended Scenes are worth checking out because they are basically longer scenes with more jokes, the Outtakes are great fun - as you would expect - and the Plot Holes mark quite a novel idea, narrated drawn images telling how some of the various characters got out of tricky situations that were not fully shown on-screen, for example, what happens to Lucy Davis' character during the pub scene. We also get Funky Pete, which takes a hilarious look at what would have happened had the swearing been cut for a TV version, and The Man who would be Shaun, an excellent, but brief, moment with Pegg and Frost doing their best Caine/Connery impressions a la The Man who would be King.
The TV Bits segment includes two Trisha clips, a Jeremy Thompson Interview, T4 with Coldplay and Fun Dead, all fictional zombie parodies including famous reality stars. The Zombie Gallery section has some Poster Designs, a Photo Gallery and a 2000AD Comic Strip, and the Trails of the Dead section has all the Trailers.
VerdictShaun of the Dead has got to be one of the top 10 post-2000 comedies which, for my generation, also makes it arguably one of the best comedies of all time. Not only does it set new standards in recent Brit comedies, but it also trumps many of its US ilk, avoiding the standard tactics of insulting spoof antics in favour of gentle parody, and allowing the filmmaking trio of Wright/Pegg/Frost to both show up the flaws in the movies they love, whilst also showing why they love them in the first place. This kind of satire, done as a respectful homage, works perfectly for the cross-genres that it pokes fun at - romantic comedies and zombie horrors - and it went on to work perfectly for the follow-up Hot Fuzz. This new Region Free US Blu-ray release sports good video and audio, particularly considering the budget of the original production, as well as a bucket of extras that include everything that has previously adorned Home Video releases. It is great that we have finally got a definitive release of this gem, so go and get it now (if you haven't already). Highly recommended.
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