Thursday, 6 June 2019

Shed of the Dead (2019) - Zombie Comedy Horror Film Review

I had high hopes for British indie comedy zombie horror Shed of the Dead. It has a host of iconic actors, a familiar style of humour to that most famous of British zombie comedies, and of course the flesh hungry brain eaters themselves. However, rather than try and stamp out its own identity, director and writer Drew Cullingham (Umbrage: The First Vampire, The Devil's Bargain) is happy to just try and copy what has come before, but to a far less successful extent.

Unemployed thirty something slacker Trevor (Spencer Brown - Nathan Barley) spends his days in his shed at his allotment painting his miniatures for his fantasy wargaming, mostly in order to avoid his wife Bobbi (Lauren Socha). One day zombie apocalypse comes suddenly to his part of the world in London, eventually realising this he teams up with his best friend Graham (Ewen MacIntosh - The Office) and together they head back to Trevor's house in order to see if his wife, and her best friend Harriett (Emily Booth - Doghouse, Evil Aliens) are still among the living.

The fact that this so closely follows the template of Shaun of the Dead wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if this managed to do it to a competent enough level, but everything here just feels slightly off, like a jaded and twisted version of that classic. Simon Pegg's Shaun was a lazy idiot, but he was a character that you actually cared about, he had character development, with the apocalypse the event he needed to really turn his life around. Trevor on the other hand is a lazy idiot with a mean streak to him, and possible sociopathic tendencies. Before zombies even make an appearance he gets into an argument with his allotment neighbour Mr. Parsons (Kane Hodder - Friday 13th series, the Hatchet series) resulting (mild spoiler) in the man's accidental death. Showing no concern or guilt, and with little reasoning he decides rather than alert the police he is going to chop up the man's body and bury it in his allotment. This early insight into his character just repelled me completely, I really hoped he would have an arc where he would grow and develop, but instead he remains self centred, verbally aggressive, and plain nasty throughout, showing no concern for those around him at all. Graham on the other hand not only looks like Nick Frost, but his character is almost identical to how his character Ed acts in Shaun, with the unwelcome addition of being obsessed with Harriett in a way that was uncomfortable to watch. It's like they saw those two characters and wanted to replicate them, but didn't understand what fundamentally made them lovable idiots, as opposed to just idiots.

While Shed of the Dead eventually stumbles into its own way of storytelling the first third felt kind of like a carbon copy of Shaun. The way Trevor carries on his day, oblivious to the unfolding carnage around him was done in a very similar way. From telling radio reports that he misses key details from, to foreshadowing with off hand comments characters say, and his general lack of awareness (here mostly due to the music he is listening to on his earphones) it all felt like this could almost be a companion film set in the same universe. I admit though this was the first point that did get a slight laugh out of me, a shot of him casually walking across a field as the London skyline in the background is full of burning skyscrapers was nicely done. There are interesting moments peppered throughout, I liked the literal found footage Trevor finds (amusing) as one such example, and it faithfully copies a moment from Shaun where a character is armed with a severed arm as a weapon.

The humour was just nowhere near as good either with an over reliance on jokes about sex organs,  includes two different scenes of characters pleasuring themselves. Again, amid all of these attempts at humour there are a few decent enough parts. A whole scene that revolved around Trevor needing to get clothes from his zombie occupied bedroom had a humorous ending to it as one such example. One potentially interesting part of this is how the fantasy wargaming that Trevor is obsessed with keeps turning up as bizarre dream sequences of him as his wizard character. Shed of the Dead opens and closes with static comic book like sequences narrated by Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, Blackadder), I enjoyed those. The weird scenes inserted throughout the movie of him in his fantasy garb talking to similarly attired characters just felt distracting and unneeded. The plot as a whole is ok enough, but the titular shed wasn't as integral as I thought it would be. I figured this might be somewhat like Stalled - set in the single location, instead this goes around a few locations, but the journey from place to place is never shown.

The biggest surprise for Shed of the Dead is just how many notable iconic actors are here. In addition to Booth, Hodder, and Blessed, the legendary Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, Repo! The Genetic Opera), and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, The Devil's Rejects) turn up in small roles. It was pretty cool seeing such notable actors all in one place, it is a shame though that it was for a sadly uninspired film. On the undead side they have decent enough make-up effects, and get to bite characters on occasion, the highlight was a lollipop man who had his sign embedded into his shoulder. Mostly there is a lot less action here, which being an indie film is understandable.

For all my complaints this wasn't unwatchable. I may have had plenty of issues but it seemed well made enough, it was a joy to see all the iconic actors in their various roles, and sometimes the humour did stick the landing. This just didn't really have an identity of its own, more content to copy what has come before than try and create its own take on comedic zombie apocalypse. Indican Pictures opened this on 17th May, with a commitment to theatrical releases in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States. Shed of the Dead comes to VOD and DVD on 18th June, check out the trailer below.


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