FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) vs. ZOMBIELAND (2009) – PART 2 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome back to Friday Night Knife Fights. Tonight it’s Part 2 of the great zombie comedy debate, as our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters takes on the daunting task of pitting SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund. Thanks all for being here, and thank you readers for joining us tonight.
Last Friday, in Part 1 of this debate, Rounds 1 and 2 went to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which now leads ZOMBIELAND by a score of 2-0. This bout has a total of seven rounds, and by the end of those rounds, we hope to declare a winner and be able to choose which one of these zombie comedies is the better movie.
On to Round 3. Which movie treats the horror genre with more respect?
Okay, Paul, since we already know which movie you’ll be picking, since you’ve made it clear that you hate ZOMBIELAND, we’ll start with you.
MCMAHON: Definitely SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
ARRUDA: What a surprise!
MCMAHON: Aside from it being its own story, there were plenty of homages to George A. Romero’s DEAD movies. From ‘Foree Electronics’ to Ed’s line “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!,” to the argument between Tim and Ed about whether it’s okay to say the ‘Zed’ word.
Reuben Fleischer saw SHAUN OF THE DEAD and decided he could make a zombie comedy, too. That makes ZOMBIELAND nothing more than a SHAUN knock-off. A top-shelf knock-off, but still a knock-off. Fleischer’s movie rewards ignorance and stupidity, just like we do in this country these days.
ARRUDA: Ouch! No need to get political now.
MCMAHON: I think that inclusion was accidental rather than a considered, purposeful Romero-esque social commentary of our time.
By far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD is more respectful of the horror genre.
ARRUDA: Well, it’s more respectful of the Romero zombie movies, anyway.
SOARES: Let’s face it, Romero zombie movies – especially the first three – are the gold standard for zombie horror movies. So it’s pretty much the same thing.
MA: Dan, what about you?
KEOHANE: They’re both spoofs, of course, but—.
SOARES: Did you watch the movie this time, Dan? Do you know it has zombies in it?
KEOHANE (puts on his dark sunglasses): I see dead people.
Anyway, overall, I think SHAUN has a level up on the horror scale, since you have more of a threat to characters, more a sense of danger especially in the pub scene, than in the chaotic, silly world of ZOMBIELAND’s amusement park.
ARRUDA: Funny, though, when I re-watched ZOMBIELAND for purposes of this column, I found it less silly than I remembered it. I mean, it has its goofy bits of course, like the whole Twinkie thing, but I found it edgier than I remember.
SOARES: Dan, give those glasses to Michael. ZOMBIELAND, edgy? It’s about as edgy as a Twinkie!
(KEOHANE hands dark glasses to ARRUDA who promptly puts them away.)
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: Would you like the walking stick, too?
ARRUDA: No, I think I’m good. Actually, on second thought, I will take the walking stick. (SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL hands ARRUDA the walking stick.) This might come in handy later. (Waves it at SOARES.)
So, Sheri, what are your thoughts on which one is more respectful of the genre?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: Both films do the horror genre proud, I think. They both poke just a bit of fun at the genre without showing any disrespect.
SOARES: You two need to be more disagreeable.
Anyway, I don’t think either one is disrespectful. But I think it’s pretty obvious that SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the one that has more affection and respect for the genre.
ARRUDA: I think both films treat the genre with respect, and I don’t see either one as dissing horror films. But I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND because at times it worked more as a straight horror film. I empathized with the characters more in ZOMBIELAND, and I was concerned for their safety, even during the silly amusement part scene. I didn’t really feel this way watching SHAUN OF THE DEAD, because I was too busy laughing. I find this amusing because it’s the SHAUN OF THE DEAD characters who die, while the ZOMBIELAND characters survive. SHAUN did such a good job building its comedic world, I never took it seriously.
So, the Round 3 tallies are in, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins 3-1, with two abstentions.
Which means SHAUN wins Round 3.
Okay, after three rounds it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and ZOMBIELAND 0 so far.
ARRUDA: On to Round 4.- Which movie has the better cast? I’ll answer this one first.
I prefer the ZOMBIELAND cast. I like the four principal leads, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. This quartet is more effective than Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield and friends.
Plus ZOMBIELAND has Bill Murray playing himself in one of the movie’s goofier segments. Even though I agree with Paul that this sequence is overrated, it’s still fun to see Murray.
I like Simon Pegg A LOT in SHAUN as the normal guy caught up in the zombie apocalypse, but I like Jesse Eisenberg almost as much in the same type of role. But in addition to Eisenberg, ZOMBIELAND also has tough guy Woody Harrelson, tough babe Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. While I like the supporting cast of SHAUN, they’re not quite as good as the Fab Four from ZOMBIELAND.
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I agree with Michael.
I like Simon Pegg and his gang, but you can’t beat Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee for sheer bad-assery. Harrelson brings a touch of carefree sexiness to the film that SHAUN just doesn’t have. I can certainly appreciate that Shaun manages to overcome his hopelessness and pull himself out of his rut, but having two pathetic guys in one zombie battle is a little redundant.
MCMAHON: You’re both wrong.
Simon Pegg and crew had some difficult scenes, and they did a fantastic job nailing every emotion called for. The standoff between Shaun and David toward the end was particularly intense.
In ZOMBIELAND, the plot came to a halt for a spell while the characters revealed where they came from and what they’d been through. I saw Tallahassee’s big “reveal” coming a mile away… possibly because I’d recently watched the final M*A*S*H episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which used the same narrative sleight of hand. While Harrelson did okay with the scene, it wasn’t enough to overshadow the acting in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD clearly has the better cast.
SOARES: I have to go with ZOMBIELAND for this one. While I liked Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in SHAUN, I can’t name anyone else who was in it. All the major characters in ZOMBIELAND are good and memorable, and work as an ensemble. So it’s ZOMBIELAND for me.
KEOHANE: Personally, I think they’re both top-notch. I became a Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes fan because of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and later their brilliant SPACED television series (1999-2001).
I’ve always enjoyed Eisenberg and Harrelson (and more recently Emma Stone) in anything they’ve done, or at least anything of theirs I’ve seen. They may have sucked in something I simply haven’t watched yet.
I’m calling this one even.
WANGLUND: SHAUN OF THE DEAD was co-written by and stars Simon Pegg, a British actor who clearly brings his dry sense of humor to the film. Pegg plays a regular guy dealing with some typical issues that most people can relate to when the zombie outbreak occurs.
Most of the cast was unknown to American audiences, and I appreciated that because no one is safe.
ZOMBIELAND has a fairly well-known cast that portrays the characters almost to the extreme of their types. Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee takes pleasure in destroying zombies while Jesse Eisenberg is like a scared little boy who you have wonder how he has survived at all (I very much like his “rules”). Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin’s con-artist sisters are believable in terms of how you may have to survive, but I think the characters aren’t as relatable as they are in SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I did like the cameo appearance by Bill Murray which was funny and sad at the same time.
But overall I’m going with the cast of SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
ARRUDA: So, ZOMBIELAND wins Round 4 with a score of 3 -2 with one tie, which means after four rounds, our score is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and ZOMBIELAND 1.
ARRUDA: On to Round 5. Which director does better job, Ruben Fleischer on ZOMBIELAND or Edgar Wright on SHAUN OF THE DEAD?
SOARES: I think they both do a fine job. I’ve liked other things Edgar Wright has done, and I noticed that one Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie that Wright didn’t direct – PAUL (2011)– was painfully unfunny. So, because I just like Edgar Wright better overall as a director, I give the slight edge to him.
WANGLUND: Edgar Wright, who co-wrote and directed SHAUN OF THE DEAD does a great job keeping the pace of the comedy while still keeping the zombie threat very real and very scary. The end of the film is bittersweet as so many of Shaun’s friends and family do not survive, but life has been able to continue.
I think ZOMBIELAND director Reuben Fleischer did a good job balancing the comedy with the very real horror of a zombie apocalypse.
The directing was superb in both. Even Steven again.
ARRUDA: While I agree that both directors do a good job, I give the slight edge to Ruben Fleischer. I like the energy he brings to the pacing of ZOMBIELAND. Some scenes are downright frenetic. I also like the creative gimmick of the words superimposed on the screen where Eiesenberg’s Columbus lays out his rules to live by. Sure, this isn’t original, we’ve seen this type of thing before, but it still works here.
But Edgar Wright utilizes a lot of creative touches in SHAUN OF THE DEAD as well.
This one’s very close but I give the edge to Fleischer. Advantage, ZOMBIELAND.
MCMAHON: From the very first shots of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, you know Edgar Wright is bringing his A-game. A seemingly intimate conversation between Tim and Liz is revealed through camera angles to be happening at a table crowded with their friends. Also, I loved the pre-zombie and post-zombie mirroring of Shaun’s trip to the corner store for a Coke and a Cornetto.
ZOMBIELAND tried to copy the sense of fun by using title cards to keep track of Columbus’s rules for survival, and that was cute, but felt heavy handed to me. Almost like Ruben Fleischer wanted to be sure we knew he was making a comedy.
Winner: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I’m siding with Colleen on this one. Superb direction by both guys.
KEOHANE (feigning ignorance): Which movies are we discussing again? Seriously, this one’s too close to call.
SOARES: Yeah, I notice people are saying “both” to a lot of these questions. These two movies are just too close – they’re both decent comedies about zombies. It’s just not a very exciting contest to me, because there’s no real conflict here.
ARRUDA: I disagree. I’d much rather have a close contest like this than something like SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. SCARY MOVIE 5. Where would the fun be in that? Competition is supposed to be evenly matched. Otherwise it’s not much of a contest.
All right, then, there you have it. Round 5 goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, with a score of 2-1 and 3 ties. Which means our tally after 5 rounds is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 4 and ZOMBIELAND 1. But ZOMBIELAND could still pull a surprise win out of its hat in PART 3.
That’s all the time we have for PART 2. Join us next Friday night for the final two rounds, the exciting conclusion to our debate of SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Don’t forget, ZOMBIELAND still has a chance.
So long for now!
—END PART 2—
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund