Exploring Soundtracks: Shaun of the Dead

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Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be looking at another film by Edgar Wright, the director who brought us all Baby Driver. For me, Edgar Wright has become one of the best contemporary directors who uses music intentionally in his films. This time we’ll be going a little further back in his filmography, to the 2004 zombie parody “Shaun of the Dead”.

For those who haven’t seen it, “Shaun of the Dead” follows the life of Shaun (Simon Pegg), who is trying to turn his life around. He does this by trying to win back his ex-girlfriend, reconnecting with his mother, and taking on an army of the living dead. As expected, it’s full of laughs, blood-splattered action, and some gruesome, but hilarious deaths.

And of course, since this is an Edgar Wright film, there are plenty of scenes enhanced by fresh, interesting, and uncommon song choices. Let’s look at a few.

Don’t Stop Me Now

One of my favorite scenes in “Shaun of the Dead”, is when Shaun and his friends get trapped in a local pub. When Ed (Nick Frost) wins at a slot machine, the noise alerts zombies outside to their presence. They start to close in, and bang their cold, dead hands against the windows. Suddenly there’s one inside, an old, overweight man. Then for some reason, the jukebox in the corner turns itself on, and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” starts playing.

The following sequence is just one of the most fun in the whole movie. Shaun, Ed, and Liz (Kate Ashfield) each grab a pool cue, then begin beating the dead old zombie in in time with the beat of Queen. The happy, upbeat lyrics, “Don’t stop me now / I’m having such a good time / I’m having a ball”, are comedy gold when set to a zombie brawl sequence.

When another friend in the pub runs to shut off the generator to stop the music, he only ends up flashing the lights on and off, attracting even more zombies, who all start coming in through the back. The fight sequence ends when Shaun rams the old zombie headfirst into the jukebox, cutting the music off completely.

White Lines

Another great moment where music, comedy, and horror collide comes far earlier in the film. After a long night of drinking in the pub, Shaun and Ed stumble outside, singing Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” to each other. As they do, they are completely unaware that the couple “snogging” in the background is really one zombie biting the neck of its victim.

So they continue on their way, until their singing is interrupted by the undead groan of another zombie. Due to the timing, they think he’s trying to sing along with them. We get a hilarious back and forth between Shaun and Ed singing and the zombie groaning. When he doesn’t get the lyrics right, they walk off, referring to the zombie as a “bloody tit”.

While the song doesn’t actually play during the movie, it can still be found on the soundtrack.

If You Leave Me Now

We’re working backwards through the movie, if you haven’t guessed yet. Our last scene is just a short one, but still uses music as a device to affect the characters. In the beginning of the film, Shaun gets dumped by his girlfriend.

As he and Ed are drinking in the pub, Ed tries his best to cheer him up. But once Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” comes on the jukebox, it only further depresses Shaun. When Ed asks who put on the song, Shaun simply answers, “It’s on random”. And we already know that we’ll be hearing from that same jukebox again toward the end of the film.

Track List

  1. Figment” – S. Park
  2. “The Blue Wrath” – I Monster
  3. “Mister Mental” – The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
  4. “Meltdown” – Ash
  5. “Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen
  6. “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Melle Mel
  7. “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” – Man Parrish
  8. “Zombie Creeping Flesh” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  9. “Kernkraft 400” – Zombie Nation
  10. “Fizzy Legs” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  11. “Soft” – Lemon Jelly
  12. “Death Bivouac” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  13. “The Gonk (Kid Koala Remix)” – The Noveltones
  14. “Envy the Dead” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  15. “Ghost Town” – The Specials
  16. “Blood in Three Flavours” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  17. “Panic” – The Smiths
  18. “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” (originally by Buzzcocks) – Ash featuring Chris Martin
  19. “You’re My Best Friend” – Queen
  20. “You’ve Got Red on You / Shaun of the Dead Suite” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  21. “Normality” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  22. “Fundead” – Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford
  23. “Orpheus” – Ash

 

 

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