Wes Craven was a master of horror

Director Wes Craven, master of the horror genre, passed away yesterday at the age of 76 from brain cancer. His memorable film credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Scream (1996) and The Last House on the Left (1972).

Horror often is regarded as a B-picture genre in Hollywood, something that industry hacks specialize in, a class of film below the work of a true filmmaker. Yet if that is true, how come so many horror films disappear into obscurity while audiences still vividly remember classics such as Craven’s work. Everyone knows Freddy Krueger, a monster of Craven’s creation, a being that goes into the dreams of people and murders them. Everyone recognizes Ghostface, who terrorizes a town through phone calls and bloody hackings.

It is not a hard trick to scare an audience, but it is difficult to scare them in a way that is never forgotten. Craven’s work is exemplary for that ability. He was able to get under an audience’s skin through memorable scares and vivid antagonists.

Modern horror films so seldom present something so unmistakable, so distinctive. It is why people still continue to love Freddy Krueger and Ghostface. They are not only terrifying, but visually dynamic, fun even, in their mercilessness and creativity.

Craven will be missed for his ability to create such interesting characters and for the mark he left on the horror genre. There will never be another like him.

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Predicting the Red Wings roster

New head coach Jeff Blashill
New head coach Jeff Blashill

With training camp set to start the middle of September, speculation on who will actually make the Wings roster is ramping up. There are stars guaranteed spots, veterans who want to prove they still have what it takes and youngsters itching to earn their way onto the team. Throw in injuries, contract disputes, cap management and a new head coach and you have a recipe for intrigue.

Looking at the team in its current makeup, let’s examine who will, may and won’t make the opening night squad.

Injuries:

  • Pavel Datsyuk: The 37-year-old star center had ankle surgery in the offseason and looks to play potentially either late October or early November. It is highly doubtful he will start the season.
  • Johan Franzen: After suffering another concussion in the middle of the last season, Franzen’s career may be over. GM Ken Holland recently reported that he plans on having a healthy “mule” report for the start of training camp, but it is entirely up in the air as of now.

With neither Datsyuk nor Franzen likely to start the season, that opens up two forward spots for competition during camp.

Contracts:

  • The only forward regularly practicing now with the team without a contract is Dan Cleary. A utility forward for the Wings for the past ten seasons, Cleary was often a healthy scratch last season, but insists he wants to continue playing. If there was a verbal agreement between the Wings and Cleary for him to stay on the team, he may sign a two-way contract that allows him to start with the AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. He is unlikely to make the opening night roster.

Guaranteed spots:

There are always injuries during training camp (players are battling hard for roster spots), so one player’s injury means another one’s opportunity, but sparing injuries, there are several forwards pretty much guaranteed a spot come opening night.

  • Henrik Zetterberg- C, LW
  • Gustav Nyquist- RW
  • Justin Abdelkader- LW
  • Tomas Tatar- LW
  • Riley Sheahan- C
  • Brad Richards- C
  • Darren Helm- C, LW
  • Luke Glendening- C
  • Tomas Jurco- RW
  • Drew Miller- LW
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg

That’s ten guaranteed spots, leaving just three (two when Datsyuk returns and just one if Franzen is able to come back).

Barring further injuries and a star-turning training camp from another prospect, the list of young players competing for the last roster spots are:

  • Teemu Pulkinnen
  • Mitch Callahan
  • Landon Ferraro
  • Anthony Mantha
  • Tomas Nosek
  • Andreas Athanasiou
  • Dylan Larkin

Larkin is seen as one of the cornerstone players of future Wings teams, but he is just 19 and may need some seasoning yet. Rest assured though, if Holland and head coach Jeff Blashill think he is ready for the grind of being an NHL player, they will seriously consider adding him to the team.

Top prospect Dylan Larkin
Top prospect Dylan Larkin

Mantha, also a top prospect, had a disappointing season, his first in the majors, with the Griffins last year, but if he can maximize on his potential and with a good camp, he could push for that spot.

Ferraro earned a spot in the last week of the regular season last season and played well in the playoffs as a grinding type forward. That experience may give him the inside track to make the team full-time.

Pulkinnen has become a big-time scorer in the AHL and spent a few games with the Wings last season. Out of minor league options, he has to make the club to avoid being put on waivers, a risk the Wings are unlikely to make, giving him a very strong case to make the team rather than lose him for nothing.

DETROIT, MI - MARCH 14:   Teemu Pulkkinen #56 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena on March 14, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Teemu Pulkinnen

Nosek, Athanasiou and Callahan all have yet to really establish themselves as ready for the NHL, and without a high-end training camp are likely to start the season in the minor leagues.

The common thinking is that Pulkinnen and Ferraro will be the final two roster spots to open the season with perhaps Callahan the spare (they want Larkin and Mantha playing on the ice rather than sitting in the press box). In terms of line combinations, Blashill will have final say, but they make look something like below:

Richards

Pulkinnen – Abdelkader

Zetterberg

Helm – Nyquist

Sheahan

Jurco – Tatar

Glendening

Miller – Ferraro

And when Datsyuk and if Franzen return, the line combinations get a bit more beefed up:

Datsyuk

Zetterberg – Abdelkader

Richards

Helm – Nyquist

Sheahan

Franzen – Tatar

Glendening

Miller – Jurco

Again, this is all barring injuries, trades and career-defining training camp performances.

On defense, the roster spots are a bit clearer.

Guaranteed spots are:

  • Niklas Kronwall
  • Jonathan Ericsson
  • Brendan Smith
  • Kyle Quincey
  • Mike Green
  • Danny DeKeyser
Nik Kronwall
Nik Kronwall

With the top six locked up, all that’s left is the seventh and possibly eighth roster spot. Jakub Kindl, scratched so often by former head coach Mike Babcock, is considered expendable, but with a good camp, and with his puck moving skills, he could earn that spot.

The other options are prospects:

  • Xavier Ouellet
  • Alexey Marchenko
  • Ryan Sproul
  • Joe Hicketts
  • Robbie Russo
  • Nick Jensen

Of the six, Marchenko stands the best chance of making the team with his steady presence and right handed shot. Ideally, Marchenko or Ouellet, who both spent some time with the Wings last year, will have a great camp and force Blashill to make some tough decisions.

Alexey Marchenko
Alexey Marchenko

The Wings will want to audition as many of their prospects as they can this year in the NHL with so many of their veterans with ending contracts. They need to know who they can rely on, who needs more seasoning and who they should cut ties with. The next wave of Red Wings is coming very soon, and this is a make-or-break year for many of the organization’s assets.

And finally in goal, the Wings have more stability than they have in years. Many were willing to cast off Jimmy Howard after he lost the starting job to youngster Petr Mrazek in last year’s playoffs, but Howard is still in his prime as a goaltender and was an all-star before a knee injury in January. He should be back to 100% (barring injury) and eager to reclaim his job.

And Mrazek, with his first taste of the big show, will similarly be eager to prove himself as Detroit’s new number one. That competition between two legitimate top-tier goalies should really help the Wings throughout the season. Ideally, Howard will take back his crease, starting 55 games, while Mrazek gets the experience he needs, about 30 games worth, and learns how much work goes into a full season and being an everyday pro. Then come playoff time, the best man gets the job.

Petr Mrazek
Petr Mrazek

Mrazek is the goalie of the future, but Howard needs to be the goalie of the present. Both need to push the other and create a great tandem.

Looking over the Wings’ roster, there is plenty of reason for optimism. They have good depth, veteran leadership, a stronger defense with the addition of free agent signing Mike Green, youngsters fighting to get into the lineup, a strong goaltending duo and a new voice behind the bench. Is it a Stanley Cup-worthy team? Time will tell. With the offseason shredding of the Cup-winning Blackhawks’ roster (not to mention star player Patrick Kane’s deserved legal trouble), the downgrade of Boston and Los Angeles, the aging Rangers and the choking Ducks, the NHL is as wide open as ever.

The Wings, with good fortune with injuries and opponents, could very well make a deep playoff run. Most prognosticators will pick a combination of Chicago, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Minnesota for the championship, but it just as easily could be Nashville, Montreal, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Dallas, or yes, Detroit. The Wings probably should have won their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in last season’s playoffs, a team that went all the way to the final. The team that the Lightning lost to in those finals was a team that the Wings held a 3-1 games advantage on two years ago before losing in seven. They’re not that far off. They just need a bit of the killer instinct of seasons past. With Blashill, another year of development for youngsters Tatar and Nyquist and Sheahan and Zetterberg and Datsyuk looking to end their careers on a high note, maybe this is a championship squad.

A ‘fantastic’ failure

I did not see Fox’s recently opened Fantastic Four this weekend. More than likely, you did not either. That’s all right. Most everyone didn’t. As soon as the first reviews started coming in late last week, signs pointed towards a disaster. Not only were they negative, they were downright cruel. Peter Travers of The Rolling Stones said, “The latest reboot of the Fantastic Four – the cinematic equivalent of malware – is worse than worthless. It not only scrapes the bottom of the barrel; it knocks out the floor and sucks audiences into a black hole of soul-crushing, coma-inducing dullness.” A.O. Scott of the The New York Times similarly reported, “Ms. Mara disappears. Her character also has the power to make other things vanish. I would say she should have exercised it on this movie, but in a week or two that should take care of itself.”

What went wrong? How could Marvel Comic’s original flagship superhero team flounder so poorly again cinematically (the 1994 and 2005 films are similarly awful)? It is the classic story of Hollywood greed and incompetence.

20th Century Fox was about to lose the rights to the Fantastic Four franchise unless they released another film, and, rather than lose them for nothing back to Marvel, they rushed into production on a stopgap film. Suffice it to say, a rushed production for purely financial reasons is never a strong way to create a good movie.

There was hope in the beginning though. Director Josh Trank was hired, he of the indie hit Chronicle (2012). Up and coming actors such as Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell were cast in the lead roles. With that talent brought together, a hit seemed assured. The first trailer promised a darker tone and teen angst. This was a new version of the beloved superhero team, one that seemed to take them seriously. And then the rumors about the shoot started to creep up online.

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Trank was aloof on set, often isolated. It was rumored that he was in over his head, often unsure of his decisions and unable to answer questions to cast and crew. It was even rumored that things got so bad that producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker were forced to step in and finish the film, with reshoots as recently as just three months ago. Trank had been rumored to be a frontrunner for one of the upcoming Star Wars films. He has since been removed from consideration.

As the first awful reviews started coming in, Trank took to Twitter, posting that, “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.” The tweet has since been removed.

Josh Trank tweet
Josh Trank tweet

Whether Trank was in over his head or the studio interfered too much, it doesn’t really matter. The final product is apparently a Frankenstein-esque bore.

Early estimates for the weekend indicate that the film made $26.2 million for the weekend, a pathetic showing compared to the $191.2 million that Avengers: Age of Ultron opened to or the $57.2 million that Ant-Man earned. Even audiences who saw the movie gave it a measley C- cinemascore (for comparison, Pixels, a widely panned Adam Sandler film, received a B from audiences). It is highly unlikely, even with the international box office, that Fantastic Four will earn any profit, and a planned sequel and mashup film with the X-Men will almost surely never happen.

Hopefully, Fox will come to their senses the next go around and just let the Fantastic Four movie rights lapse back to Marvel. After their third failed attempt to jumpstart a  ‘Fantastic’ franchise, Marvel fans deserve better.

The State of the Detroit Red Wings – Summer 2015

With the Red Wings failing to advance past the first round against a Tampa Bay Lightning squad that they outplayed for most of the series, a summer of questions about the team will be asked as happens every year to every team, even the one that wins the championship.

While blame is the most pointed aspect of discussion for a team that has not advanced to the conference finals in six years, it does not serve well in assessing the team going forward. It can be argued that the Wings were simply a recipient of bad luck, the bounces not going their way, and a healthy Johan Franzen and Erik Cole may have pushed them towards a deeper run with the pair of bigger bodies who can score matching up well in the series.

Regardless, looking forward, the tendency may be to dwell on the failure of this group and consider a need for big changes. That would be wrong. Again, puck luck and health decided the Tampa series, not a poorly constructed team. Great changes would actually delay actual improvement and deeper playoff runs.

Pavel Datsyuk and Steven Stamkos
Pavel Datsyuk and Steven Stamkos

Detroit’s next best chance for a championship may not be next year or even the year after that, but in three years time. That’s not to say that that the Wings can not win a championship next spring. They may. But the current construction of the team reveals that, just like Los Angeles and Chicago, the perfect mix for a championship run with all cylinders running is a few years down the road.

Datysuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Kronwall are all in their mid to late-thirties. Their production may decline in the upcoming seasons, but it’s also worth remembering that Nick Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios all enjoyed productive years right into their forties. With the age of that group, suitable replacements ready to take on the first line and defensive spots need to be met and that’s where the development of the Wings must emerge.

Gone are the days when teams could simply buy superstar players off the open market. The stars of tomorrow have to be developed today in the minor and junior leagues. Without proper development, teams flounder (case in point, examine the Edmonton Oilers). The Wings learned this lesson a long time ago and will continue to reap the benefits, but the next group of potential stars of the team are still ripening.

Forwards Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen, Dylan Larkin, Zach Nastasiuk, Axel Holmstrom, Dominic Turgeon, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Andreas Athanasiou as well as defencemen Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Joe Hicketts and Nick Jensen represent the next wave of Red Wings. Some of that group may not develop. Some may turn out to be depth players at best, but some may be the stars that Detroit needs to replace Zetterberg, Datsyuk and company. High on that list are Mantha, Pulkkinen and Larkin, the combination of which could form a potential dynamite first line.

DETROIT, MI - MARCH 14:   Teemu Pulkkinen #56 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena on March 14, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – MARCH 14: Teemu Pulkkinen #56 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena on March 14, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

When those prospects are combined with budding Wings stars already on the roster in Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser, the Wings future looks set. It may seem like that crop has been around forever, but they are still learning the ins and outs of the league and who better to learn from than Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall. A few more years of development will show their true potential.

In two or three years time, with Nyquist, Tatar and DeKeyser entering their prime years and Mantha, Larkin, Pulkkinen and Ouellet learning their ways, having a slightly behind step Datsyuk and Zetterberg won’t be that much of a concern. To have that kind of talent together on one team would bode well for playoff success, again, health-depending.

When you also consider the depth of Detroit’s goaltending, it’s optimistic. While Jimmy Howard may have lost his way near the end of the season and been forced out of the number one job, it is premature to consider trading or burying his contract. He should arrive at camp in September eager to reclaim his job. The best scenario for the Wings is to have both Howard and youngster Petr Mrazek ready to roll and competing for the number one job. Mrazek is the Wings goaltender of the future and that future may be soon, but having Howard regain his form would greatly boost the Wings options. Two great goalies are better than one.

So for next season, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen (health depending), Tatar, Nyquist, Sheahan, Glendening, Miller, Helm, Abdelkader, Jurco, Andersson and Weiss at forward and Kronwall, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Smith, Quincey and Kindl on defense and Mrazek and Howard in goal. Free agents Cole, Dan Cleary and Jonas Gustafsson are not expected to be back. Veteran defenseman Marek Zidlick impressed during his brief stay and a new contract may be offered to him. And there’s always that possibility that a youngster such as Pullkinen, Mantha or Ouellet may push a veteran out of a spot, which may be welcome by the club.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg

What the Wings do need over the summer are complimentary pieces either via free agency or trade. They have been linked to Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf and those talks may continue now before they collapsed over the trade deadline. Another right handed shooting defenseman would be needed as well, especially if Zidlicky is not resigned or Marchenko fails to make the club after camp. One of the problems that has become evident over the years is that the defense is in flux. After Kronwall, the corp consists of solid defenders that make the right play, but no one that really sparks the offense and plays with the dynamism of Lidstrom or Rafalski. Phaneuf would help, but not completely fix that issue. Another year of development for both DeKeyser and Smith, both of whom had very good playoffs, into further development of that kind of player is needed, especially since the free agent market is so thin.

Also needed are more size on the Wings. A healthy Franzen and Cole may have tipped the Tampa series in their favor, what the Wings really needing were big bodies who could drive to the net. Abdelkader certainly helps in this regard, but he is only forward who really dug into this area. This is the same role that made Todd Bertuzzi strangely valuable for the past few years. One more large forward who can go to the net a la Tomas Holmstrom, complimenting a healthy Abdelkader and Franzen, would help the Wings create the matchups they need to succeed.

And then there’s the situation surrounding Mike Babcock. Whether he returns to Detroit could be decided as early as tomorrow. If he decides not to come back, Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill is waiting in the wings (pun intended). Having already coached many of the Wings future stars in Nyquist, Tatar and Sheahan and guiding them to an AHL championship, he would serve as a great transition coach, and it may be good to have a fresh new voice for this team. Having said that however, Babcock is still the best coach in the game, and the Wings would be lucky to have him back. Considering the coaching vacancies out there, Babcock’s best option may be to stick with Detroit anyway.

Mike Babcock's smile
Mike Babcock’s smile

So the Wings won’t stop contending for the Cup anytime soon, but that championship team may be down the road a few years still. Just imagine the potential lineup:

Larkin

Mantha – Pulkinnen

Sheahan

Nyquist – Tatar

Zetterberg

Datsyuk – Abdelkader

Helm

Jurco – Glendening

Kronwall – Ericsson

Marchenko – DeKeyser

Smith (Phaneuf) – Ouellet

Mrazek

Howard

That is a championship roster in waiting. Unforeseen circumstances may still arise with injuries and trades, but the Wings would be wise to stay the course and not do anything drastic. Knowing Ken Holland, that is exactly what will happen.

It is disappointing when teams can’t advance due to bad luck (health issues and puck luck) and questionable league interferences (suspensions). But the Wings are well-equipped to continue growing and contending for years to come.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies a Mess

Peter Jackson has finally finished The Hobbit series, a series that pretty much everyone knew beforehand should have been at most two films. As the third entry ends, everyone’s worst fears were vindicated. This was too long, too monotonous with too much shoved in to create three films from what should have been a very simple story.

The film begins exactly where the last left off, the evil dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) intent on destroying Laketown. After his demise, the kingdom of Erebor, long sought by Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his company, is up for grabs, with orcs and men and elves and dwarfs all converging in one climactic battle. This battle consumes most of the film, but with no real characters of consequence other than Bard (Luke Evans) involved, there’s not a lot to be emotionally involved with, and the overabundance of CGI effects (in stark contrast to the first trilogy, which heavily used effects, but in conjunction with actual props and locations) renders the spectacle more tedious than thrilling. In much the same vein as the reviled prequel Star Wars trilogy (1999-2005), Jackson has sacrificed emotion at the expense of attempting to create awe, but awe is created with a blending of grand spectacle combined with concern for characters. The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers (2002) was immersive in scope, a grand attack on a large scale, but at its heart was a concern for the people of Rohan, our heroes laying everything on the line in a last desperate attempt to save humanity. The Battle of the Five Armies has several random armies fighting for gold and jewels and strategic advantage. With Bilbo, Thorn and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) pretty much on the sidelines, there is not a lot to care for. Bilbo needed more to do, with more of a stake in the events surrounding him, for an audience to care.

The entire series has suffered from a lack of direction, torn between adoration for the original trilogy with its hardened war analogies, and Tolkien‘s original novel, more whimsical and youth-based. For every scene where the dwarfs are in danger of being eaten by trolls (youth), there is a gory battle scene involving orcs and decapitation. The lack of a cohesive vision has hurt the series overall, giving it no real identity. Audiences can only wonder what originally-planned director’s Guillermo del Toro’s films would have been like. A new director with a new style may have served the story well, differing in tone from the first trilogy while still fitting into the same Tolkien world.

Somewhere hidden in this mess of forced romances, overlong battles and dismissive comic relief (the character of Alfrid is not only not funny, he is downright painful to watch) lies a pretty good four hour film, similar in scope to Lawrence of Arabia (1962) epic. Perhaps some fan edit will give us the Hobbit film audiences deserve. What Jackson and company have given us however are three films that pretend to deliver heart, but abuse that sentiment under an avalanche of CGI nonsense and subplots that offer nothing to the tale of Bilbo (Martin Freeman), the supposed protagonist who is often relegated to secondary status, the single worst sin by the filmmakers. Bilbo’s tale, and his relationship to Thorin and the other dwarfs, should have been the heart of the film. What we have instead is a mess.

“The Interview” Cancellation a Failure in Modern Politics

Kim Jong-Un in The Interview
Kim Jong-Un in The Interview

By now, news has spread rampant that Seth Rogen and James Franco’s The Interview will not only not be released on Christmas this year, it may not be released at all.

Sony headquarters was hacked in a massive cyber attack on November 24 by a group known as the “Guardians of Peace”. Terabytes of data were breached and stolen as the hackers demanded that the Seth Rogen comedy not be released. The entire timeline of events illustrated how both the hackers and the media brought down a $50 million production in just a month.

On November 7, five Sony films (four of them not yet released) were dumped onto downloading hubs, including Annie (2014). Rumors began to circulate that North Korea, the butt of the joke of The Interview which told the story of an assassination plot on dictator Kim Jong-Un, was behind the attack.

On December 1, the pre-bonus salaries of Sony’s executives and 6,000 employees were leaked and immediately published by a variety of news outlets. In the next few days, more information was leaked including film budgets and confidential contracts, PDFs of passports of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Jonah Hill and user names and passwords of executives. The theft also breached the security of the consulting and auditing firm Deloitte and 30,000 of its employees salaries were posted.

On December 5, employees were sent an email threatening them and their families if they did not sign a statement repudiating the company. Three days later, another threat was issued if the film was shown. More confidential emails were released, including embarrassing racial comments towards President Obama made by Executive Amy Pascal that could end in her dismissal.

The film premiered in Los Angeles amid tight security on December 11, but more information was leaked soon thereafter, including medical records and more threats issued against Sony Pictures. On December 14, the script for the next James Bond film, Spectre, was leaked online. Two days later, the hackers promised “9/11 type” terror on theaters that released the film.

Soon, major theater chains including Landmark, AMC and Regal, pulled their plans on releasing the movie. With the theaters no longer planning on distribution and the New York premiere recently cancelled, Sony announced that they were cancelling the Christmas release of the film. Shortly thereafter, they clarified that they indeed have no future distribution plans for the film at all.

The entire situation has been made worse by a media out for scoop and not handling the hacking fairly. As intimate details were released about Sony, these secrets were reported. News stories fed the damage by highlighting company politics and spreading the racially-sensitive emails. In effect, the media helped the hackers, now surely North Korean officials, incur the destruction they were looking for.

Sony’s decision to entirely pull the film sets a terribly bad precedent for future attacks. Now, countries such as North Korea and others know that cyber attacks can be used as a means to an end perhaps not necessarily for national companies, but for private institutions. While the mess from the attacks will linger and the data breaching certainly is not over, from Sony giving in to hacker’s demands to the media exploiting the wreckage of classified emails to the inability to prevent cyberterrorism, the incident represents a fiasco for Hollywood and the government.

Already, plans for a Steve Carrel comedy that involved North Korea have been scrapped out of fear of a similar situation. What North Korea accomplished was an attack on American freedoms of speech and expression, and we are all paying the price for their ineptitude.

Shaun of the Dead Scene Analysis

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.21 AMShot 1: The scene starts with a POV shot of the two characters, Shaun and Ed, looking into their backyard. The strange position of the female zombie, hunched over, small in frame, informs the viewer that something is amiss.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.24 AMShot 2: Nick and Ed stare at the girl, bemused, wondering who this strange girl is. The camera pans around them, similarly bemused.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.32 AMShot 3: The camera pans behind the back of the two men. They look at each other, each wondering what is going on. The repeated camera movement makes us feel like we are with them, looking at this strange woman as part of the group.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.50 AMShot 4: They mock her. Their lack of caring regarding the situation is funny because the audience knows that the girl is a zombie. Seeing them react with such uncaring attitudes hints at the surprise upcoming.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.54 AMShot 5: We are looking at the girl with them again, waiting…

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.55 AMShot 6: Nick picks up a rock and tosses it at her, hoping to get a reaction. After the buildup of the previous shots, now will we see that the characters realize that she is a zombie?

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.47.54 AMShot 7: The rock hits her in the back of the head, but still, nothing happens.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.01 AMShot 8: Still no reaction. This delay in reaction builds up the tension to the character’s discovery.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.03 AMShot 9: The zombie slowly turns around.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.05 AMShot 10: Shaun’s reaction is that of strange intrigue. Now he sees we believe.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.07 AMShot 11: Ed’s reaction is similarly tone-changing. We think they’ve realized what they’re dealing with. The close-up of both shots highlights their facial reactions more than the earlier two shots.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.10 AMShot 12: The woman continues turning. The slow turning, combined with the fast shots builds the anticipation continually.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.12 AMShot 13: Shaun and Ed see the girl.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.14 AMShot 14: Then we see the girl. We see the pale skin and the hollowness in her eyes. The camera moves in closer to her, setting the shot up as a reveal. Now, we reason that Shaun and Ed will realize they’re in trouble.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.18 AMShot 15: Shaun and Ed react with awe and shock. We reason with them about the zombie.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.20 AMShot 16: We cut back to the obvious zombie, now in a close-up, an obvious threat they have not realized yet.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.23 AMShot 17: Instead, Shaun remarks how drunk she is. This gap in their logic is humorous and delays that moment of true realization about the zombies.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.25 AMShot 18: We see the distance between the zombie and them, showing them not in danger yet, but the girl starts to move towards them.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.28 AMShot 19: Shaun and Ed continue to laugh as the zombie moves towards them. As the zombie closes the gap, we expect another moment of panic, of realization, as the danger moves closer and closer.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.30 AMShot 20: The zombie moves closer and closer. Just as the previous shots set up a reveal of the zombie only to have it be met with comedy, these shots again tease a moment of suspense as we wonder with her coming nearer what will happen. As an audience knowing the genre, we know they are in danger, and what the zombie will do, but with Shaun and Ed continuing to disbelieve their predicament, we don’t know what will happen next.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.33 AMShot 21: The camera is handheld, moving haltingly like a zombie, bringing us further into the action. The buildup continues as she moves closer.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.36 AMShot 22: The zombie leaps at Shaun to attack him, nearly right into camera, placing us as Shaun, showing us that now, the men will realize what’s going on.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.38 AMShot 23: Shaun screams at first and then laughs, holding her back. Ed laughs with him. They reason that the girl is coming on to him. This break from genre conventions again provides humor. Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.46 AMShot 24: Shaun begins to notice something strange with the odd behavior of the woman, but he coolly brushes that off along with the rest of the clues.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.47 AMShot 25: The camera tracks up and down as Shaun struggles with the woman and Ed disappears back into the house.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.49 AMShot 26: Another humorous outburst as Ed returns with a camera and snaps a photograph of the couple. This behavior contrary to horror and zombie film conventions continues to elicit laughs.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.50 AMShot 27: Shaun curses out at Ed and calls out for his help.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.53 AMShot 28: Ed pulls the woman off Shaun, amused but annoyed at her.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.54 AMShot 29: The zombie attempts to bite Ed. The quick cutting of the action keeps the momentum driving forward. By shots coming so fast, they are able to move seamlessly with the action.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.56 AMShot 30: Ed pushes the zombie away, calling her a name.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.58 AMShot 31: Shaun reacts with more angst regarding the girl, things changing, but not the degree that the two need to confront her.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.48.59 AMShot 32: Shaun notices her nametag and calls her out, trying to reason with her. The act of trying to reason with a zombie produces more comedy.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.00 AMShot 33: Shaun again tries to control the situation, handling things with any other person. The gap between them has grown, but the zombie quickly closes it once more, producing more anticipation for another confrontation.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.01 AMShot 34: She’s almost back, Shaun’s reasoning not working.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.02 AMShot 35: Shaun realizes that his reasoning is not working as the gap is being closed. He threatens her not to come any closer.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.04 AMShot 36: Shaun struggles with her once again, but not taking things as lightly as before, no longer amused but annoyed.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.21 AMShot 37: Shaun pushes her back and she stumbles.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.22 AMShot 38: The pair react with horror as the zombie falls on a pole, splitting her in the middle. As an audience we know what will happen next considering she is a zombie, but for Ed and Shaun we laugh with them thinking they’ve murdered someone. This is also the film’s first true instance of gore, creating the first blood and gore laugh.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.24 AMShot 39: A close up reaction of Ed and Shaun’s reaction, Shaun horrified, Ed more awe-inspired and thinking of its coolness, creating another laugh. This also illustrates both of their characters.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.27 AMShot 40: The zombie slowly starts to get back up, pulling the pole out of her stomach. The score highlights the zombie-ness of the whole exchange. The camera pans up with her to reveal…

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.45 AM…the hole in her stomach, with Ed and then Shaun’s faces in the middle. This shot signifies their transportation from the normal world to this new zombie world.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.46 AMShot 41: Shaun and Ed realize now that they are dealing with something seriously wrong in the world. The serious moment lasts just a second. Another moment of comedy ensues as Ed starts to rewind his camera, taken in by the whole thing until Shaun pushes it away.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.53 AMShot 42: The zombie closes the gap again, this time with Shaun and Ed realizing they are in danger.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.55 AMShot 43: Shaun and Ed start to turn around, back away from her as the camera pans to…

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.49.59 AM…another zombie lurking next to them, moving closer, blood dripping from its mouth.

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 9.50.01 AMShot 44: Shaun and Ed are now realizing that there is a major problem around them. No longer are they naive, but immersed in the world of zombies.

Conclusion: This scene serves to introduce the characters of Shaun and Ed to the zombie apocalypse happening around them, the inciting incident to the main plot of the film. By building up expectation to certain events, the film produces comedy by continually reversing expectations, playing up the naivete of its characters. Only when the characters are faced with the supernatural nature of their situation do they realize something is wrong.

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