Friday Night Knife Fights: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – PART 1 (of 3)

With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

We have a great panel for you tonight, and the debate is:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND.

Will this shape up to be a contest between British humor (SHAUN) and American humor (ZOMBIELAND)?  A battle between fast and slow zombies?  In your face laughter vs. subtle snickers?  Let’s find out.

Joining L.L. Soares and I on our panel tonight are fellow Cinema Knife Fighters Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund.  Thank you all for taking part in today’s panel.  Let’s get started.

L.L. SOARES: It’s your yacking that’s holding us up.  Let’s go!

ARRUDA:  Hey, I’m trying to do an intro. here!

Tonight’s contest consists of seven rounds of questions.  Whichever movie wins the most rounds wins the match, and by our special “knock-out” rule, if one movie wins the final round by a unanimous vote, that movie scores a knockout and wins the match regardless of the previous score.

Okay, let’s get this mêlée started.

The first question tonight is which movie is flat out funnier?  Which film did a better job making you laugh, where you laughed so hard you split a gut?

Colleen, we’ll start with you.  Which movie do you find funnier, SHAUN OF THE DEAD or ZOMBIELAND?

COLLEEN WANGLUNDZOMBIELAND (2009) and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) are both very funny films.

SOARES:  Did you bust a gut watching them?

WANGLUND:  No.  I can’t say that I did.  But they’re both very funny, both fun to watch.

ARRUDA:  So you think both are equally as funny?


SOARES:  You’re not supposed to pick both.  You’re supposed to pick one, but I’ll blame Michael for this, since once again, he’s picked two movies that are simply too close to call.  This is going to be tough.

ARRUDA:  It wouldn’t be fun if it were easy.

PAUL MCMAHON:  It’s not tough for me.  I hated ZOMBIELAND.


SOARES:  How can you hate ZOMBIELAND?  That’s un-American!

MCMAHON:   I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but I still hated ZOMBIELAND, in the way you hate a comedian who constantly repeats old material.


MCMAHON:  I know, I know.  I’m probably the only guy in the world who he hated it.

ARRUDA:  I’m sure there are a few others.

KEOHANE:  I agree with Colleen.  They’re both funny, but in different ways.

When I first watched SHAUN OF THE DEAD I was laughing out loud—.

SOARES:  Did you split a gut laughing?

KEOHANE (counts on his fingers):  Three. Plus a few blood vessels.

But this side-splitting laughter didn’t happen until the latter half of the movie. It’s the kind of movie that creeps up on you, first making you realize things are off, then making you smile, then when you’re on board with the plot and overall feel of the film, you’re busting a gut. Or in my case, guts.

ARRUDA: Who knew laughter could be so brutal?

KEOHANE:  However, as soon as ZOMBIELAND began I was laughing, and really never stopped. Granted, slapstick – and there’s a lot more slapstick in the traditional sense (relentless physical comedy) in ZOMBIELAND – garners more laughs on average I think.

Based on the number of laughs it gets, I’d go with ZOMBIELAND as the funnier movie.


SOARES:  There’s too much agreeing on this panel!


MCMAHON:  I’ll change that as soon as I throw in my two cents.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I like both ZOMBIELAND and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but there are more laugh-out-loud moments in ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  My turn.  I’m actually going to disagree with Dan and Sheri.

SOARES:  Finally!

ARRUDA:  I’m picking SHAUN OF THE DEAD as the funnier film.  I think the jokes work better, and there’s something outlandish about British humor that just makes this one click.

While ZOMBIELAND does have some creative bits, the bulk of its humor is based on scenes of visceral zombie kills and the like.  As Dan said, slapstick, and I love slapstick, but in ZOMBIELAND’s case, there’s really not enough of it.

Re-watching both these movies for purposes of this column, I found ZOMBIELAND less funny than I remember it being.

The laughs in SHAUN OF THE DEAD were the result of creative comic writing, while ZOMBIELAND relied on in-your-face sight gags that didn’t hold up as well on a second viewing.  I found the comic style of SHAUN OF THE DEAD held up better.

Okay.  So, Paul, you have more to say on this question?  You’ve been drooling for a while now.  Here’s your chance to answer.

SOARES:  Here, have a napkin.

MCMAHON:  I prefer to use the back of my hand.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD‘s humor came from the characters as they made efforts to better themselves. These were people who cared about real things and acted out of their own responsibilities toward their relationships with each other.

ZOMBIELAND was full of brainless asshats trying to find Twinkies and get laid. And don’t ‘But Bill Murray’ me. First off, I’ve never understood the pop-culture deification of the guy. I can’t see that he’s any funnier than any other comic actor of his time.

SOARES: Hey, I love Bill Murray!

MCMAHON:  They sent the guy, dressed like a zombie and acting like a zombie, to surprise a nervous kid with a rifle. I don’t see what’s so funny about the scene at all.

ARRUDA:  I kinda have to agree with you on that one.  I’ve never found that scene funny.

MCMAHON:  What did they think was going to happen? Dumb scene, dumb characters, dumb movie.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the funnier movie.


SOARES:  I think that both movies are pretty good, and that they both have good casts and funny moments. But I’d have to give a slight edge to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, mainly because it’s a bit smarter and more aware of the history of zombie movies. There are references to George Romero movies that I thought were clever, and the script was just a tad better written.

I think it’s a close call, but I give this one to SHAUN.

ARRUDA:  Okay, after one round, SHAUN OF THE DEAD  jumps out to the early lead  and leads ZOMBIELAND 1-0.

On to Round 2.  Next question:  Which movie has better zombies?  Sheri?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  The ZOMBIELAND zombies work best for me because they’re not the classic shuffling zombies. It makes things a little more challenging for Tallahassee and the crew.

ARRUDA:  I agree. I liked the zombies better in ZOMBIELAND, too.

I liked how they moved faster and seemed vicious and ferocious, as opposed to the more traditional, slow-moving lumbering zombies found in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.  I will add, however, that in both movies, the zombies look great.

SOARES:  I would say they’re about equal. But if I had to choose, I’d give a slight edge to SHAUN, if only because it stuck more closely to Romero’s creations.

WANGLUND:  I thought the special effects in both movies were equally well-done.  I liked the zombies in both.

ARRUDA:  You just won’t rock the boat today.

WANGLUND:  Smooth sailing so far.

SOARES:  Screw that!  I want a tsunami!

WANGLUND:  The Geisha of Gore doesn’t joke about tsunamis.

ARRUDA:  Let’s move along before we all get seasick.  Dan?  How about you?  Which movie’s zombies do you prefer?

KEOHANE:  Since both films have the more traditional, lumbering zombies, there’s not a lot of comparison.

ARRUDA:  Actually, the zombies in ZOMBIELAND move much faster than the traditional movie zombies.

SOARES:  Weren’t you paying attention, Dan?  We just said the zombies in ZOMBIELAND were quicker.  Did you even watch the movie?

KEOHANE (feigns sheepish sadness and shame):  I remember them being typical lumbering zombies.  What can I say?

SOARES:  Maybe you should look at the screen the next time you watch the movie!

ARRUDA: I’m sure in some scenes they moved like traditional zombies.  Let’s cut Dan some slack.

SOARES:  I’ll cut him a new pair of eyes.

ARRUDA:  You were saying, Dan?

(SHERI hands DAN a pair of dark sunglasses, and COLLEEN hands him a walking stick.)

KEOHANE:  Very funny.

As I was saying, SHAUN tends to poke less fun at the monsters than the human survivors, whereas it’s just the opposite in ZOMBIELAND, so in that regard, SHAUN’s zombies are a tad better.

The zombie clown from ZOMBIELAND.

The zombie clown from ZOMBIELAND.

MCMAHON:  Eh hem.  When is it my turn?  Are you relegating the ZOMBIELAND hater to the back of the line?

SOARES:  Shut your pie hole and go back to drooling!

ARRUDA:  It’s just a coincidence that you’re last. Go ahead.

MCMAHON:  Years after watching SHAUN I can remember the big zombie twins, the cashier girl, the one-armed-zombie, Tyres from Spaced, and the big black guy with the vinyl record sticking out of his head.

I remember seeing a clown crawling under a bathroom stall door in ZOMBIELAND, and I remember a generic zombie getting crushed by a piano, which struck me as stupid because that’s a one and done defense unless you’re holing up in a piano distribution warehouse.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD clearly has the better zombies.

ARRUDA:  So, Round 2 goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD which means after two rounds, the score is 2 to 0, in favor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

That’s all the time we have for PART 1.  Join us next Friday night for PART 2, when the SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND debate continues.

Good night everybody!


© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund


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