Frankly, Shaun of the Dead is to blame. 15 years ago when Nick Frost, Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright brought their particular brand of affectionate lunacy to the zombie genre, it was a revelation. They showed that on a Brit-film budget you could make a quality zombie movie. More importantly, a hilarious one. Since then, there’s been a lot of British attempts to re-capture that particular undead magic: There was Gangsters, Gun & Zombies, Cockneys vs Zombies, and who could forget Zombie Women of Satan? No one but that’s just because no one watched it. But could Shed of the Dead, with turns from Jason Vorhees himself, Kane Hodder, Horror movie mainstay Bill Mosely and The Office’sBig Keith, Ewan MacIntosh, break the chain and actually be any good?
Shed of the Dead stars Spencer Brown as Trevor, he has an allotment space but he doesn’t like growing things, he just paints his Dungeons & Dragons miniatures in it and home-distills Vodka. His wife (Catastrophe‘s Lauren Socha) is sick of him not doing anything with his life and his best friend (MacIntosh) is in love with hers (Emily Booth). Also, Jason Vorhees has organised a petition to have him evicted from the allotment for doing nothing with his space. Oh, and then it becomes a very British version of hit game Plants vs Zombies.
The film works best in its little character moments, when they aren’t screaming at each other, Brown & Socha have decent chemistry, imbuing a lived-in charm that makes there marriage feel more real. It feels a rip-off of the central friendship from Shaun of the Dead but equally Brown and MacIntosh have even rapport to convince as the other one’s best and only friends. And Hodder, Mosley and narrator BRIAN BLESSED have a blast in their small character roles. An extended sequence involving Hodder and some dismemberment becomes a strong comedic highlight, almost recalling early Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi in its gruesome screwball pacing. It is also surprisingly well-shot for a horror film, let alone a British one.
But the problem is, it’s not really scary enough to be pure horror and beyond the aforementioned sequence, doesn’t really have enough laughs to satisfy on that end. For some reason, the director seems to think that just having characters scream at each other is enough to cover for the fact that what they’re screaming isn’t particularly interesting. Also, I really don’t understand why it felt like a good third of the film takes place in extended fantasy hallucinations from the lead. They really don’t add as much as the director seems to think.
A weird mishmash of genre, tones and styles, it’s a curious one. It’s not that it’s a bad film more is it particularly good, it’s just sort of passable enough to say, “yeah sure, whatever. Why not?” I guess that even now, fifteen years on, we’ll have to wait a bit longer before we get another quality British Zom-Com. Till then, I guess this will just about do.
Dir: Drew Cullingham
Scr: Drew Cullingham
Cast: Spencer Brown, Lauren Socha, Ewan Macintosh, Emily Booth, Kane Hodder, Bill Mosely, Brian Blessed, Michael Berryman
Prd: James Fisher, Nicholas David Lean
DOP: Stephen Murphy
Music: Reinhard Besser
Run time: 82 mins
Shed of the Dead is available on DVD & Digital Download now.