SHAUN OF THE DEAD TRAUMATISED ME | fivethreeninety

Shaun of the Dead was released in cinemas 13 years ago today. So I’m going to talk about how it ruined me.

Almost thirteen years ago, when the film came out on DVD, my family decided to watch it all together. I was seven. They figured it was a comedy & that my sister & I would be fine (this wasn’t horrible parenting – I’d been watching Buffy for three years by this point & had been totally fine with that).

It’s also worth noting that my Aunt & Uncle had recently purchased a surround sound system for their living room, & that one of these speakers was just to my right.

So story goes, we all sit & watch this film. Everyone’s having a great time, even my sister (who was 5 at the time) was laughing the whole way through. I was hiding behind my knees & crying. EVERYONE DIES. THE WORLD IS IN CHAOS. IT’S NOT A FUNNY SITUATION. AND THE SURROUND SOUND WAS PLAYING FLESH RIPPING & ZOMBIE GROANING IN MY EAR THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH.

I was TRAUMATISED. 

When the film finished we all sat talking & I remember just watching the DVD menu not knowing what to do, not wanting to talk about the film but also not wanting to let my family know how deeply it had scared me & certainly not wanting to go upstairs to bed – my cousin had loved the film in the cinema so much that he even had a massive wall sized poster that was proudly hanging in his bedroom, & I did not want to go anywhere near it.

For the next eight years I constantly thought that a zombie would pop out at me or a loved one, was terrified of shower curtains being pulled across or people standing alone in the dark on a street. I’m not being melodramatic – I still have all the zombie escape routes I planned out for all of my family’s homes. 

Like I said, I was already a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer & all of Joss Whedon’s work. Which meant that I was unassumingly thrown into watching zombie related stuff a couple of times: once in an episode of Angel where an entire building gets turned into zombies, & again when we went to the cinema to see The Cabin in the Woods – I thought it was great, but did at one point think I was going to have to leave. I said to my family afterwards that if I had known there was such a prominent zombie plot in it, I wouldn’t have come. 

It wasn’t until one day I decided to join my sister in starting The Walking Dead that I really faced my fear – & we all know how that went.

I don’t know what about it scares me so much. Obviously zombies are meant to be scary but I don’t know why I just couldn’t deal with them at all. I think I’m more scared by zombie apocalypse origin stories, where it’s people right in the thick of it breaking out where they don’t know how to cope; I don’t like the thought of being trapped in a small inclosed space with a zombie; or them banging on glass & walls; & I hate the idea of being bitten by one. But I think what I hated most is that it’s your loved ones completely transformed by it? I was so, so scared by the idea that your friends & family can become the monster? And that you would have to kill them?? No thanks.

Yes in hindsight it is really funny. To this day I’ve only ever seen it once since, when I was feeling particularly brave on a birthday seven or eight years back. I’ve even based an entire year’s A Level art project around zombies where I studied the Shaun of the Dead graphic novelisation. I love The Walking Dead, to the extent where I spend all of my money on their conventions. But I still don’t think I’ll be able to watch it for a third time any time soon.

It’s a brilliant film. It’s everything I love about British filmmaking & more, & I love the trio that is Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Edgar Wright – Hot Fuzz is my favourite film. 
Just maybe don’t show it to a seven year old.

(Also – my five year old sister loved it)

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