A pathetic grown man and his equally uninspiring friends seek to survive a U.K. zombie outbreak while he fantasizes about his role-playing game character.
Writer/Director: Drew Cullingham
Starring: Spencer Brown, Lauren Socha, Ewen MacIntosh, Emily Booth, Michael Berryman, Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder
Shed of the Dead is writer/director Drew (The Devil’s Bargain 2014) Cullingham’s clearly Shaun of the Dead-inspired horror comedy where a 30-something geek must survive an English zombie outbreak with his equally unappealing wife and their friends.
I’m not sure why, but the United Kingdom seems to be overrun by the zombies that slid out of fashion in the U.S. within the last decade. With recent pleasing entries such as Andy Edwards’ 2016 Ibiza Undead and John McPhail’s 2017 Anna and the Apocalypse still lingering in recent memory, one can almost forget the atrocities hefted onto the market such as Redcon-1 (2018). Where then, does Shed of the Dead (2019) fall on this scale of good-to-grueling? The answer, it turns out, is somewhere in the middle.
Cullingham’s comic-horror yarn is littered with humor and lighter on the gore, though the latter is still present enough to put the film solidly into the horror genre. It also has more than it’s share of horror icons, with legend Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes 1977, Wizards of the Demon Sword 1991) playing a dominatrix-loving puff named Derek, Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th VII–Jason X) playing a dull American ex-pat, and Bill Moseley (Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects films) stealing what little of the show he’s given as a serial killer enjoying the undead free-for-all.
The core cast is small, and is comprised of only Spencer Brown (Naked But Funny 2010) as lead Shawn (really?), Lauren Socha (Misfits series 2009) as his wife Bobbi, Ewen MacIntosh (The Office U.K. series) as the nerdy shut-in Graham, and Emily Booth (SpiderBabe, Witchcraft X: Mistress of the Craft) as the dominatrix friend-of-the-family Harriet.
The cast plays each part well, but the problems lie in the characters of Shawn and Bobbi. Unlike the aforementioned horror comedies, the leads of Shed of the Dead are completely unlikable and—unless you’re truly a pile of garbage—unrelatable. Shawn spends his days in what must be a hotter-than-hell garden shed fantasizing about being his knightly roleplaying character, while Bobbi spends her days supporting them both and cursing her husband with more lines than the remaining cast is even given. The duo is wholly irritating, and the fact that the film ends with any survivors at all (no spoilers) is less joy-inducing than disappointing. It doesn’t help that every terrible thing the group endures is self-induced, and mostly Shawn-induced. Even Graham, the slovenly pervert, comes out smelling more of a rose by the end than his bosom-buddy.
Still, Cullingham isn’t a fool. What he lacks in balanced characters, he makes up for in visual variety. The film occasionally jumps to the fantasy world of Shawn and Graham’s imagination, though it’s admittedly sparse, and the opening is actually a narrated motion-comic style intro. It isn’t big-studio worthy, but it’s enough to engage the audience more than the run-of-the-mill zombie drudgery that gets loaded into your queue. My main irritation with the animated inserts is in the closing credits scenes, which offer a Tim Bradstreet-esque motion-comic of the film’s aftermath that is both unbelievable in the context of the movie’s world, and also unsatisfying, given the characters’ personalities.
The comedy itself is a hit-or-miss affair, with some moments being genuinely funny, while others—such as Shawn and Graham’s smirking at the wounded Harriet’s exposed bum—are decidedly nauseating. The gore is likewise spotty, with some practical effects being effective, and other 3D-spurts being less than convincing.
That seems to be the running trend throughout Shed of the Dead—it’s not original, but neither is it wholly derivative. It isn’t hilarious, but neither is it brutally unfunny. It’s somewhere in-between success and failure, and that will make it worth it for a viewer just looking to pass the time, and not much more.