Dawn Of The Shed
Shed Of The Dead
UK 2019 Directed by Drew Cullingham
Warning: Some spoilers.
Zombie movies seem to come and go with an alarming and ever increasing frequency over the decades since George A. Romero (whose image makes a posthumous cameo as a cartoon figure in the opening titles here) reinvented and popularised the genre back in 1968 with Night Of The Living Dead. I think the reason why zombie films and the majority of horror films made these days are so predominant in the modern cinematic landscape is because they're relatively cheap to shoot and, quite often, have more of a shot at turning a profit on their budget. So, yeah, Shed Of The Dead is another relatively low budget zombie movie which tries to sink or swim with all the rest of them.
Now, I will go on record straight away and say... this is not a terrible movie. It’s well made and it’s got a lot going for it. I think, from my personal point of view, the worst I can really say about it is that it’s just not to my taste. And you have to factor in that I’ve only seen, maybe 50 - 90 zombie movies in my life, so I’m hardly an expert on these things. I think this one may split people though, not because of the way in which it lives and dies by the necessary genre clichés of all the other zombie films made these days... but because of the tone of the writing.
Okay... so the plot is that Trevor (played by Spencer Brown) practically lives in the shed on his dishevelled and untended allotment. His prime activity, since he’s unemployed, is to distil homemade vodka and paint up his role playing game figures. Indeed, the pre-credits sequence of the film is the conclusion of a campaign rendered mostly as static drawings with slightly animated sections and a wonderfully enthusiastic voice-over commentary by Brian Blessed. He plays a Dungeon & Dragons flavoured military table top style game with his best friend Graham (played by Ewen MacIntosh) and suffers the constant nagging of his wife Bobbi (played by Lauren Socha), who has a beauty parlour under the ‘office’ of her sex worker friend Harriet (played by the always watchable Emily Booth). Then he gets into an argument with a guy in the allotment who accidentally falls back onto his own pitchfork which goes through his face and kills him. Trevor, quite stupidly, saws his legs off so he can bury him but, luckily for him... before he can be accused of a murder, the zombie apocalypse happens... although he does have a bit of trouble disposing of the very animate, legless corpse for a bit. Of course, as in the majority of the movies in this genre, there is no explanation given for the sudden zombie infestation and, frankly, none needed.
So there’s the set up. It’s got potential I think and at least some of the writing isn’t too bad. The performances are all excellent and, in addition to those four main cast, there are a wealth of good and known actors from the genre joining them, including Michael Berryman (as Harriet’s favourite client), Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley. And they and, pretty much everyone in this, are firing on all cylinders giving some nice performances.
The film is... well... it’s very English and the humour (it’s a zombie comedy, for sure) is probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I found the dialogue and characterisations to be a little bit caustic and grittier than I would have liked. While the fact that some of the characters felt like they’d just stepped out of a Mike Leigh movie would normally be a huge compliment, I just found the language and crudity of certain characters a bit much and, for this kind of film, a little unnecessary (yeah, you probably won’t hear me leveling that complaint at a film very often, for sure).
That being said, there were some nice moments of humour and the goriness which, post-1968, have become a staple ingredient of the genre, certainly didn’t feel too cheap. And, of course, certain of the very UK oriented bits of humour did bring a smile. Like the fact that everybody knows that one of the allotment plot keepers is a serial killer who routinely buries the bodies there but, you know, nobody really cares enough to tell the police or anything and are just happier minding their own business. Very British.
There are some nice one liners in Shed Of The Dead too and, frankly, seeing Emmy Booth dressed as a dominatrix in one scene is certainly worth the price of admission to this kind of an affair. I do feel like I’m in the middle of the road on this one, much to my regret. I didn’t love it but, at the same time, I certainly can’t condemn it because it’s too well made and some of the characters made me smile on occasion. Although they were a bit dumb in a lot of cases, especially when the main weakness of the zombies is made known to one of the characters and used as a joke early on in the film... and then totally ignored, never to be revisited again in the course of the running time. It’s not exactly frightening or suspenseful but, then again, this kind of comedic zombie carnage movie rarely is intended to be, to be fair. And that’s about as much as I can say about it. Not a hit or a miss for me. I wouldn’t recommend it but then, I wouldn’t tell anyone who is into zombie films not to watch it either. Just not something which pushes my buttons in any major way. This might have done better if it had premiered at FrightFest, I suspect.