Zombies seem to be a popular focus in the horror genre at the moment, with TV shows The Walking Dead bringing a new rejuvenated interest in the horror sub-genre. The success of the series seeming to be infectious, with a variety of zombie themed projects coming out every week, although most shuffle along without offering anything new to the genre.
Amongst the horde however you occasionally come across a breakout horror such as Shaun of the Dead (2004). A film which offers something different to the normal formula as both a homage and parody of the sub-genre. Where Shaun (Simon Pegg) pays homage to the influence of George Romero’s “of the Dead” series, Shed of the Dead uses Shaun as a familiar template and follows a similar infected vein with the balance of horror and comedy. Throw in amazing cast of horror icons, role play fantasy and a more sophomoric humour, and it still has enough to make it stand out on its own.
Shed of the Dead is a low budget British horror comedy but succeeds thanks to the brilliantly funny script from writer-director Drew Cullingham; which has managed to bring together an impressive cast. This includes the distinctive voice of Brian Blessed as the narrator and cult British scream queen Emily Booth who is on comedy form once again as Harriet. The most surprising inclusion however in the cast is the trio of horror icons from the other side of the pond, Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley and Michael Berryman. All three are on top form and deliver memorable performances as characters you wouldn’t normally expect.
Kane Hodder shows once again that there is more to him than a monster behind a mask, depicting a more civilised persona with a brilliantly comical performance as the aristocratic Mr Parsons. He does revert back to more familiar role later in the film whilst still maintaining the comedy, so it is safe to say his performance is one to keep an eye out for.
Michael Berryman is not someone who is afraid to make a fool of himself even if it means horsing around, but introduction as Derek is hilariously unexpected with a striking new look. Michael is utilised in every scene using a variety of visual gags which had me laughing out loud every time he appears on screen.
Bill Moseley however delivers my favourite performance of the three as Doc, an initially reserved character who later seems to revel in the sudden zombie uprising. His calm persona and short but witty dialogue once again make him a memorable character, and I am sure horror fans will appreciate his lack of ice cream reference in the film. Like Kane and Michael however his character is used all too briefly in the film and although this is probably due to the budget, it would have been nice to have seen them used more throughout.
As the film’s main protagonist Spencer Brown is perfectly cast as the submissive geek Trevor, whose awkward social skills and obsessive Dungeons and Dragons fandom sees him retreating to solitude in his shed. Initially you feel sorry for his character, especially when it seems everyone is against him. Belittled by his frustrated wife Bobbi he can’t seem to connect with; played brilliantly by Lauren Socha who retains her attitude from her performance in Misfits (2009-2013). Whilst on the allotment a petition led by Mr Parsons, signed by users of the other tenants asking him to leave due to the lack of maintenance on his own plot. Surprisingly, as the film goes on, although he isn’t the normal type of antihero that you would expect and due to his actions, you begin to question his loyalties. It’s not that he acts cowardly (all of the time), but if a zombie apocalypse did occur, he is not the sort of character I would want to be around. Like the character of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, whenever he is around someone seems to end up dead.
As a central character to the film it is the interactions between Trevor and the other characters where the comedy works really well. The subservient relationship with his wife Bobbi who seems keener on spending time with her best friend Harriet. Or a more nerdly friendship with best friend Graham whose agoraphobia makes him the perfect opponent in Dungeons and Dragons, despite his slightly perverse obsession for Harriet.
The clever script has references throughout aimed at both horror and fantasy fans, which start with the animated opening credits delivering a fairly comprehensive A to Zombie of the sub-horror genre. Yet it is in the fantasy elements where Trevor retreats into his own imaginary fantasy world where it offers something different. The fantasy scenes are delivered like short sketches in which Trevor undertakes the alto ego of mage Casimir the Destroyer in a Dungeons and Dragons style realm. Here he is joined by his adversary Graham and on occasions a scantily dressed Harriet. The scenes work perfectly to add some additional comedy, not only adding something original to the genre, as well as something for the fantasy fans. One of the standout moments during a verbal sparring battle was a clever play on words in which they use Harry Potter references.
The film may be more of a comedy than a horror although it does deliver some of the usual horror clichés that will please the fans. Once the zombie starts to rise there is plenty of blood with some excellent gorey special effects, ongoing visual and verbal references to the horror genre which includes a shower scene. However, be warned those hoping that this may be Emily Booth will be left disappointed.
Filled with tongue-in-cheek humour, which with this being a zombie film can be taken literally, Shed incorporates this concept for some laugh out loud moments. One of my favourite scenes is where Graham having overcome his agoraphobia to leave the house, gets an opportunity to prove himself a hero to Harriet. Seizing the chance to prove himself and hopefully win her heart, he manages in some respects to achieve his goal even if things don’t quite go plan. This does however lead to one of the most unconventional romantic scenes which is played out against the musical backdrop of The Flower Duet (Lakmé) and one of horror’s most memorable on-screen kisses.
With the current obsession with zombies and the market being flooded with content it is easy to see why people are starting to lose interest. However, I think horror fans may take a chance because Drew Cullingham has created something original which really stands out in the genre. Compared to previous horror comedies such as Shaun of the Dead it may not feel as polished with the execution, but when it comes to laugh out loud moments it does manage to deliver consistently throughout. For pure escapism I would highly recommend Shed of the Dead, which goes to prove that there is still some life left in the walking dead.