FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) vs. ZOMBIELAND (2009)
PART 3 (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 3 of our battle of the zombie comedies, SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND.
So far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has opened up a very wide lead, as it’s ahead of ZOMBIELAND by a score of 4 rounds to 1.
PAUL MCMAHON: As it should be. SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a much better movie than ZOMBIELAND.
ARRUDA: Says you. But that’s what we’re here to decide.
Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, ZOMBIELAND hater Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund. Thank you all for joining us tonight. We’ve got a great panel, and tonight’s the night that we conclude the debate. Even though SHAUN OF THE DEAD has a comfortable lead, there’s still time for ZOMBIELAND to make a comeback.
Okay, it’s on to Round 6.
Which movie has the better screenplay? Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick for ZOMBIELAND, or Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD?
SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: ZOMBIELAND has a better screenplay, I would say.
The plot is less predictable than that of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. As I mentioned, I like SHAUN, but ZOMBIELAND is written better and executed more effectively.
The ending of SHAUN seemed a little odd. Life kind of goes back to normal. It doesn’t really ring true. At the end of ZOMBIELAND, the characters are changed, but there’s no illusion that things go back to “normal.”
MCMAHON: This is so obviously SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
If you take the zombies away, Shaun was the story of a man whose life was crumbling under his own complacency. He embarked on a journey to win back his girl, distance himself from his mooch of a best friend, make amends with his mom and stepdad and generally “sort his life out.” The zombies made the film awesome, but they weren’t the main focus.
ARRUDA: Come on! Do you really think without zombies SHAUN OF THE DEAD would stand as having a decent story? I don’t think so. Take away the zombies and you’re left with a bunch of losers fighting over pub food.
MCMAHON: It’s a better story than ZOMBIELAND.
In ZOMBIELAND, you had one putz following the standard zombie movie plot by searching for his family, you had two brainless putzettes who believed zombies wouldn’t enter amusement parks, and then you had the biggest putz of all on a nationwide hunt for Twinkies snack cakes. Take the zombies out and you’ve got squat.
ARRUDA: I wouldn’t want to take the zombies out of either movie, actually. But I think the characters in ZOMBIELAND are just as satisfying as the characters in SHAUN, perhaps more so since they’re so over the top.
MCMAHON: Nah. SHAUN OF THE DEAD by a landslide.
ARRUDA: Well, I think both screenplays work. Both are hilariously funny, and both manage to be excellent zombie movies to boot.
How to choose? While this one may seem too close to call at first, after thinking about it— now don’t fall out of your chair, Paul— but I give the edge to Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Their screenplay works from beginning to end.
MCMAHON: I told you.
ARRUDA: While I enjoy Reese and Wernick’s ZOMBIELAND screenplay, their story runs out of steam somewhat as the movie approaches its final act at the amusement park. And the Bill Murray scenes, while funny the first time, didn’t hold up as well upon further viewing.
L.L. SOARES: I think both scripts are good. But I think SHAUN is a little smarter.
ARRUDA: SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins Round 6. Our updated score is SHAUN 5, ZOMBIELAND 1.
It’s time now for the seventh and final round.
And since ZOMBIELAND is so far behind, the only way now that it could win this contest would be by a knockout. A knockout occurs when one movie sweeps the round, meaning all the panel members vote for the same movie. Something tells me, though (looks at Paul McMahon) that that’s not going to happen today.
Anyway, on to Round 7. Which one is the better movie?
COLLEEN WANGLUND: They may both be horror comedies, but the movies are very different from one another.
I did like ZOMBIELAND, overall, enjoying immensely the title sequence using Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
I thoroughly enjoyed both movies and would watch either one again. The acting and directing were superb in both. I will give SHAUN OF THE DEAD a slight edge here, however because the characters just feel more real to me. I do appreciate the fact that it doesn’t go full-on apocalypse, so it’s a bit different than most zombie films.
So my pick for which one of the two is the better film goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
DAN KEOHANE: SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a quieter, more subtle film that builds the laugh, and tension, as it goes along, and breaks as many of the zombie “rules” as it celebrates. It’s a British film, so the humor and social references are, well, British. If you’ve never been able to get into their sense of humor, you’d probably say ZOMBIELAND was better, especially as an American film – jumps right into the action, with in your face jokes and humor (and American cultural references – “Twinkies” versus “crisps” for example).
I love British humor as much as American. So my pick would probably depend on my mood at the time. Yes, this is a long-winded, borderline pompous way of saying, “Neither, they’re just as funny in their own way.”
My final pick: I call it a draw. It’s a tie.
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I think ZOMBIELAND is an overall better film. The plot works better for me.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD suffers, I think, because the first half of the film is largely expositional. Sure, in ZOMBIELAND, we have “the Rules,” which are expositional, but it’s done in such a funny way that we hardly notice.
SOARES: Yeah, “the Rules” were clever.
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: In ZOMBIELAND, we don’t know much about the characters, and we learn about them as they learn about each other. The problem with SHAUN OF THE DEAD is that by the end we can kind of figure out what’s going to happen because it’s all been set up for us.
My choice for the better film is ZOMBIELAND.
ARRUDA: This one is a very difficult question to answer. I tend to prefer ZOMBIELAND because I prefer its in-your-face zombie style to the more reserved British humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but does that make it a better movie?
I’m not sure.
I think the acting in both movies is equally as good, although I prefer the cast in ZOMBIELAND, so I give a slight acting edge to ZOMBIELAND. Both directors do phenomenal jobs, but I think Ruben Fleischer is a bit more creative with his style, so again I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND. I give a slight writing edge to SHAUN, but again the scripts are both terrific.
Based on this model, ZOMBIELAND wins two of the three rounds, so heck, I’m going with ZOMBIELAND. I choose ZOMBIELAND as the better movie.
MCMAHON (to Michael and Sheri): Poor misguided souls, the both of you.
Do I have to say this yet again?
SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I’ve seen it twelve times at least.
ARRUDA: I’m so very happy for you. What do you want? A medal?
SOARES: Hey, don’t be rude to our guests! That’s my department!
MCMAHON: In all the time since I watched ZOMBIELAND, I have not once wanted to go back and see it again. The only reason I did was to refresh my memory of it for these answers. I’m still underwhelmed. Without George A. Romero, SHAUN OF THE DEAD wouldn’t exist. Without SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND wouldn’t exist. Winner: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
Can you tell I hated ZOMBIELAND?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I’m beginning to see that, yes.
WANGLUND: You’ve made it loud and clear.
KEOHANE: And yet there’s still a modicum of obscurity, a morsel of doubt. I’m not sure.
MCMAHON: Very funny.
SOARES: So it’s my turn, huh? What’s the best movie? Well, that’s very subjective, isn’t it? I would say, from a quality standpoint, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has the edge. But as to “What movie did I enjoy more?” Which movie do I personally like better, that’s more neck and neck.
I guess a good yardstick is which one would you watch again, and my answer this time around is neither. I like both of these movies, but I don’t love them. If I was channel surfing and found one of them, I might watch it, but I wouldn’t consciously sit down and watch one of them from start to finish again. I’m just not that big a fan of most zombie movies.
If I was going to rewatch any zombie flick, it would be either one of Romero’s classics or an especially good episode of THE WALKING DEAD. That’s about it.
So that means I’m the tie-breaker here. Colleen and Paul went with SHAUN. While Michael and Sheri went with ZOMBIELAND. And while I am sort on the fence, I refuse to take the easy way out like Keohane did and call it a tie.
I would say that, as far as pure enjoyment, and both of these films are meant to be entertaining above all else, I would have to go with ZOMBIELAND.
ARRUDA: Oh my God, I think it’s an upset! That means three votes ZOMBIELAND, two votes SHAUN OF THE DEAD and one tie for Round 7 – which is the Knockout Round.
MCMAHON (to SOARES): I don’t believe you just did that, you bastard.
SOARES: Blame Keohane. He couldn’t make up his mind.
ARRUDA (reads the rule book): Errr.. not so fast. I just read the rules. The final knock-out round has to be unanimous. So ZOMBIELAND didn’t win after all.
SOARES: Dammit! I thought it was just whatever won the final round wins by TKO. That’s a stupid rule! If one movie is ahead all the way through, the chances of everyone unanimously agreeing to the other movie in the final round is pretty much impossible.
(Takes rule book from ARRUDA and rips out that page)
ARRUDA: Actually, you’re right, that probably is never going to happen. I guess it is a stupid rule. But, we can’t just change the rules at the last minute.
So here’s the solution. From this point on, the Knockout Round does not have to be unanimous. If a movie is ahead, but the other one wins the final round, then it wins by TKO, unanimous or not. That will make things more interesting.
But for this contest, we really should stick with the original rules.
MCMAHON (jumping up and down): So that means….SHAUN OF THE DEAD WINS!
ARRUDA: It sure looks that way.
MCMAHON: Yay! Now I don’t have to hang myself.
ARRUDA: Which movie is the zombie comedy champion of the world? Well, tonight, it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD!
On behalf of L.L. Soares, Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Colleen Wanglund, I’m Michael Arruda saying so long and thanks for joining us on Friday Night Knife Fights. We’ll see you again next time.
(In the background, PAUL MCMAHON is chasing L.L. SOARES around with an axe)
MCMAHON: How dare you scare the bejeesus out of me like that!
ARRUDA: Good night everybody!
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund