Shaun of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This was a largely appealing presentation.
Sharpness worked fine, as the majority of the film exhibited positive delineation. A few wider shots could feel a bit tentative, but those remained the exception to the rule.
I noticed no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes were absent. With grain on display, I didn’t detect any notable digital processing, and print flaws were minor, as I witnessed a handful of specks but nothing more.
Colors stayed chilly but worked fine for the image. Blues tended to dominate, though blood reds cropped up as well, and some amber came with nighttime shots.
These came across with the expected clarity. Given the hues’ limitations, the disc’s HDR didn’t add a ton of impact, but that process lent a bit more oomph to the tones.
Blacks looked pretty deep, and shadows showed good delineation, though the movie could seem a bit too dark at times. HDR contributed some extra range to whites and contrast. Overall, this felt like a mostly positive image.
Downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1, I felt more impressed by the film’s immersive DTS X soundtrack. The soundscape opened up well and used exaggerated effects to create a good impression.
Music cropped up from the side and rear speakers in an engaging manner, and effects spread around the room in a quality manner. The track used the various channels to put the action all around us in a convincing way.
Audio quality also satisfied. Music was bold and dynamic, and effects showed similar traits, as those elements appeared lively and accurate.
Speech remained natural and concise. Across the board, this became a strong soundtrack.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the film’s 2009 Blu-ray version? The new DTS X mix added some range and breadth to the already strong 5.1 track.
Visuals became a more complicated issue because the two discs offered surprisingly different approaches. The Blu-ray seemed significantly brighter than the 4K, and that impacted a lot of realms.
For one, grain appeared more evident on the BD, so much so that I initially feared the 4K underwent noise reduction. However, I don’t believe that occurred. Instead, I think the darker nature of the 4K simply hid the grain more easily, as the semi-overblown nature of the BD made grain more obvious.
Interiors tended to be more opaque on the 4K, and those could occasionally turn into a challenge. While the 4K never felt excessively dim, it could lean in that direction at times.
The big question becomes which presentation better represents the film as intended, and that I don’t know. I’ve only seen Shaun at home, so I don’t know if which timing hews closer to the producers’ intentions.
If forced to guess, though, I’d suspect the “truth” lies somewhere between the two. The BD came across as too bright much of the time – dusk shots looked like they took place at noon – and the 4K became a bit too impenetrable on occasion.
That said, I’d take the 4K over the BD, as it tended to feel more natural. It offered improved sharpness, and colors felt warmer and tighter. Despite its darkness, the 4K offered the superior visual experience.
We find a slew of extras here, and these open with four audio commentaries. The first comes from actor/writer Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. They discuss story/character areas, sets and locations, influences/inspirations, music, editing, cast and performances, effects, and connected domains.
While Pegg and Wright cover a nice array of topics, the track never becomes all that involving. This occurs largely because they often tend to do little more than simply name on-screen participants. That trend gets tedious and it makes the commentary drag. We still get a reasonable amount of good material, but the end result seems too inconsistent.
Commentary Two features Pegg and actors Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Dylan Moram, and Lucy Davis. All five sit together for a running, screen-specific examination of cast and performances as well as sets and locations and various aspects of the shoot.
We find a handful of decent filmmaking facts here, but don’t expect much more than silliness from the participants. They tend to laugh and joke as they make semi-random asides. Though we get the occasional insight, much of the track seems off-topic and lackluster.
For the third commentary, we find actors Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton. They sit together for their own running, screen-specific view of… not much, really. They essentially just watch the movie and offer general thoughts about it. They tell us what they like and Nighy says “yeah, baby!” a lot. I don’t think I learned a single fact about the production in this pointless chat.
Finally, we get a track with Zombies. This offers a running, screen-specific chat with supporting cast members as they discuss their experiences.
Though a bit more informative, the “Zombie” commentary resembles the track with Nighy and Wilton. Mostly the participants watch and muse about the movie; they throw in a handful of insights related to the shoot but not many. That makes this another weak discussion.
The rest of the extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, and two elements show up under U-Control: “Storyboards” and a “Zomb-O-Meter”. In the case of the former, we see storyboard art pop up alongside the movie during the appropriate scenes. This becomes a fairly unobtrusive way to compare the boards to the final photography.
As for the “Zomb-O-Meter”, it delivers notes about music, locations, cast and characters, references, and other production notes. The interface takes up too much of the screen, so it can become a distraction if you try to follow the film as you read. However, the “Meter” delivers a pretty good array of insights that add a lot to the presentation.
Within Missing Bits, we find a mix of elements. “Extended Bits” gives us 14 elongated scenes; these run a total of 13 minutes, 28 seconds. These mix some minor exposition with a few comedic beats. Nothing terribly substantial appears, but we get some good moments.
We can view these with or without commentary from Pegg and Wright. They give us some notes about the clips and also let us know why some of them got cut. The commentary adds value.
“Outtakes” goes for 10 minutes, 47 seconds and shows a pretty standard set of bloopers, though a few alternate takes appear as well. “The Man Who Would Be Shaun” takes up 35 seconds and offers Pegg’s funny impression of Michael Caine.
Two more pieces finish “Missing Bits”. “Funky Pete” (2:04) substitutes “funking” for another “F” word, while “Plot Holes” (3:27) matches actor voiceover with alternate character paths for Shaun, Liz and Ed. It’s amusing.
When we head to “Raw Meat”, we find three separate Video Diaries. We get these from Simon Pegg (6:44), Lucy Davis (5:05) and Joe Cornish (10:16). All offer some decent footage from the set, though Cornish's “day in the life of a zombie extra” offers the best material.
Within Casting Tapes, we get a four-minute, 12-second reel with footage of Peter Serafiniwicz, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, and Lucy Davis, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Though the title implies the clips come from auditions, I suspect most are from rehearsals. Whatever the case, they’re interesting to view.
Next comes the 13-minute, 36-second Edgar and Simon’s Flip Chart. Recorded September 1, 2001, this shows Pegg and Wright as they present an early text overview of the story. Created about three years before the film’s release, I like this opportunity to check out the initial plans for the film.
Three more pieces fill out “Raw Meat”. SFX Comparison (2:25) lets us see the effects evolution of two bloody scenes, while Makeup Tests (2:20) displays zombie designs. Finally, an EPK Featurette (7:10) provides some basic notes from Pegg, Ashfield, Wright, Frost, Davis, Nighy and Moran. A few decent details emerge, but the piece remains pretty promotional.
TV Bits delivers five clips, all of which are viewed briefly toward the end of the movie; we see these as evidence of life post-zombie. We find “T4 with Coldplay” (4:21), “Fun Dead” (1:05), “Trisha – Your Nine Lives Are Up” (1:26), “Trisha – I Married a Monster” (1:31) and “Remembering Z Day” (2:32). We only see tiny slivers of these in the final film, so it’s a lot of fun to view them in their entirety; in particular, the Coldplay piece offers a lot of amusement.
Three more components pop up within the Zombie Gallery. A “Photo Gallery” gives us 43 shots from the set, while “2000 AD Strip” offers a comic book preview of the film. 10 “Poster Designs” mix final and initial advertising concepts.
Under Trailers, we locate a slew of ads. We find both UK and US trailers as well as a UK teaser and a “Fright Fest” trailer. We also discover two UK TV spots.
The set ends with a Storyboard Gallery. Like the storyboard element in the U-Control feature, this appears during the film. However, rather than run alongside the movie, this one prompts you to hit “enter” on your remote when an icon appears on screen; you then leave to view the relevant storyboards. It seems to be more exhaustive than the U-Control presentation, but it’s less enjoyable.
A fun mix of horror and comedy, Shaun of the Dead offers a delightful experience. It balances the two sides well to become clever and entertaining. The 4K UHD brings decent visuals, strong audio and a wide range of bonus features. Dead works well within its genre choices.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of SHAUN OF THE DEAD