03 March 2014
Shaun Of The Dead
Want to get your horror movie noticed? Simple. Just get George A Romero and Stephen King to big you up. Okay, maybe that's no breeze but the boys from Shaun Of The Dead certainly made it look like one. Here was a film that seemed to ease its way into our hearts, effortlessly crossing over from a fanboy discovery into a bona fide hit. Even in the States - with the backing of George, Stephen and other splatter maestros - Shaun sauntered into the Top Ten, Americans coping with the references to suburban English life (and ice creams) and falling in love with this everyman hero.
Of course making a feature film is never quite as simple as it seems. Certainly when director Edgar Wright advertised for zombie extras via a fansite of his TV show 'Spaced' he wasn't sure whether anyone would actually turn up (they did, in droves). Trying to film in the busy residential streets of Crouch End in the Summer of 2003 would certainly have been no doddle either.
Yet Shaun's story is full of goodwill. Pegg, Frost and Wright's cult success with 'Spaced' meant they had familiar faces from the comedy and music scene on speed dial, each more than happy to help the film in one way or another (Martin Freeman, Jessica Stevenson, Dylan Moran and Nick Frost co-star, David Walliams and Julia Davis provided voiceover for a news bulletin, whilst Rob Brydon, Joe Cornish and a couple of Coldplay-ers rock up as zombies).
And then, with the film ready for release, came those all-important celebrity endorsements. Romero's zombie flicks, beginning with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead, were the major inspiration for Wright and Pegg and their script features plentiful nods to his work (even the music right at the start is from his classic Dawn Of The Dead). As regular face on the sci-fi convention circuit, Romero told anyone who'd listen that he loved this small British pic, importantly seeing it has an homage rather than a spoof (the inexplicably popular Scary Movie franchise was still fresh enough in horror fans' minds for the word 'spoof' to send shivers down their spines). Meanwhile Stephen King, a friend and collaborator of George, described the film as a 'classic'. Look online and you'll even find photos of him looking sharp in a Shaun t-shirt.
Ultimately though, after all that help, it was over to the audience; only they can give a film longevity. So if fans helped the film get made in the first place, then the horror big guns persuaded people to watch, it's the long-lasting audience love that's continued to keep Shaun in the spotlight. Two other pics followed in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy of course (Hot Fuzz and The World's End) but it's Shaun's back story - the little pic that done good - that marks it out as a true cult classic: the movie everyone wanted to champion.
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