Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Made in America Samurai

Made in America Samurai Table Resized

Samurai films are all made in Japan, right? Wrong!  Americans have made samurai films as well!  When I was very young I wanted to be Batman when I grew up.  As I grew older, I realized this career choice was silly.  In later years, I wanted to be a samurai.  I lived in an all white middle class suburb and there weren’t a lot of samurai sensi wandering about.  Sure I had studied judo but I knew I needed more skills than that to be a samurai.  Films about samurai filled the gap.  In pre-cable, pre-DVD, pre-internet, pre-everything days, Japanese samurai movies were hard to find and even an American made samurai film was better than nothing.  I never did become a samurai but I did end up moving to Asia and even lived in Japan for a while:

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I was reminiscing and surfing the internet I was amazed to find out there was very little on this topic on the internet. The brave, cross-cultural and pioneering American made samurais deserve better!  I write this post to honor their memory!

This article will try to compare made in America samurai with their Japanese counterparts in two areas. First, I am going to focus on the sword fighting scenes since this is a critical aspect of what makes a samurai film a samurai film. If I watch a samurai film then I want great sword scenes as part of the package.  I have dabbled with kendo and kenjutsu.  I did attend some Society for Creative Anachronism sword fighting classes at Michigan State University a hundred years ago. I am aware that cinema sword fighting is about entertainment not authenticity in general.  However, I think part of the entertainment value of samurai sword fighting, as opposed to a kung fu phooey film, or a Hollywood CGI epic, is some attempt to make the viewer have the illusion that they are seeing a real samurai fight or at least this was the case in the older samurai films.

Secondly, a code is what makes a samurai a samurai. Bushido is the code that samurai’s live or rebel against in the case of rōnin.  Without bushido then a samurai is just a guy waving a sword.  Because of bushido, there is a tension between ninjō (compassion) and giri (duty) in most Japanese samurai film and I wonder if made in America samurais have a similar dynamic.Swords provide the external drama of a samurai film.  Bushido provides the internal drama of a samurai film. If the film has samurai in the title but absolutely no samurai elements then I would argue it’s not a samurai film.  For this reason, a film like Samurai Cowboy with no samurai elements is not on the list and also the film is Canadian.  Overall this article will attempt to answer the question, how much impact have  Japanese samurai film conventions had on made in America samurai films?

47 Ronin (2013)

American Samurai 1 - 47 Ronin (2013)

A recent movie that has nothing to do with my teenage memories but perhaps will be a bad memory for future generations. This movie is a confusing mélange of fantasy that almost has nothing to do with the original 47 Ronin story.  The original 47 Ronin is a story about giri not a CGI exercise like this Hollywood version.  Keanu seems to be stuck in this one acting mode these days.  Internal conflict expressed as intense confusion would be the term I would use.  Keanu Reeves is playing Neo with a sword not a samurai!  However, there are giri elements in the movie just poorly expressed and take a back seat to the CGI.  The sword scenes are pure CGI and this was interesting once upon a time but no longer.

American Samurai

American Samurai 2 - American Samurai

This is a low budget film that marks the acting debut of Mark Dacascos. As bad as this film is one cannot say it’s the worst American made samurai film to the heavy competition for this title.The film has mediocre action.  There isn’t much in the way of psychological development of the characters.

Black Samurai

American Samurai 3 - Black Samurai

This is a blaxploitation film that has some pretty good karate action but has the word “samurai” in the title for marketing purposes.  The character development of the hero Jim Kelly is his evolution from being one cool cat to being an even cooler cat in the eyes of the audience.  Still, Jim Kelly is always fun to watch.

You have to love Jim Kelly’s double front kick! Jim Kelly’s trademark was kicking with one leg and then the other while in the air.  The more common flying double front kick is hitting two opponents at the same time which makes more sense from a combat point of view but is less fun to watch.  For all fellow would be samurai I found the following tutorial video:

I guess you can use a lot of the same training methods to do the Jim Kelly kick. I am retired and will skip the entire process.  I did Karate in my twenties no problem.  I tried again at fifty and almost died!

Bushido Blade

American Samurai 4 - Bushido Blade

Laura Gemser is in this film and she has a sword!  Laura Gemser was just about the only SE Asian sexy gal in mainstream, and not so mainstream, Western film for about twenty years and persons of a certain age will remember her fondly.  Why wouldn’t you watch this film!  I couldn’t find an English version of the film on YouTube but I have to say the German version below really grows on you.

There is a good sword fight between Frank Converse, as Captain Lawrence Hawk using a sabre, and a samurai.  Sword fights work even if you don’t understand German which I don’t.  As stated, there really is no such thing a “realistic” sword fight in movies but this scene has zero CGI and wire acrobatics and is a reasonable attempt to imagine how such a fight would play out while being entertaining.  The katana and the sabre are both swords that emphasize slashing but allow for thrusting as well.  I have handled both weapons and the weight is comparable.  A katana is generally held with both hands and a push/pull movement adds to the power of the cut.  However, Miyamoto Musashi did use two swords, one in each hand and was probably the greatest sword’s man in Japanese history.  The sabre’s guard means the sabre is strictly a one handed affair.  A knife, iron gauntlet or even a cloak with weights sewn into the bottom were sometimes used in the other hand.  A person who had used a sabre would not be totally lost using a katana and vice-versa.  There is some discussion between Laura Gemser and Frank Converse as to what being a samurai is all about.

There is even a pretty good verbal critique of kenjutsu compared to military sabre technique by Frank Converse. Actually, Frank just tears into kenjutsu.  I was a little surprised way back then since this was just about the first time I had ever been exposed to the idea that maybe Asian martial arts weren’t just totally superior to Western martial arts.  Someone involved this movie had studied both sword fighting techniques at least a bit and this is reflected in the movie.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

American Samurai 5 - Ghost Dog The Way of the Samurai

This offbeat story has a believable hero. Ghost Dog is black man in America that becomes a samurai and the why and how actually make sense.  The whole revenge as origin hero story was old when done with Batman.  The origin story in this movie goes in a different direction.  The choice of the hero is perhaps existential?  The hero has grown up in a world of chaos and the samurai code forces order on his internal chaos.  There is a bit of this existential origin in the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  There is not so much a struggle between good and evil but between meaning and meaningless existence.

The movie is funny and poignant at the same time. The fight scenes are believable and interesting.  The hero uses a nice mix of kenjutsu, wing chun and eskrima.  This is a film that operates at various levels and you can watch it more than once and pick up on all sorts of metafictional layers.  The conflict between ninjō and giri permeates the story.  Bushido is dealt with explicitly.  Mafia style gang loyalty is compared directly with bushido and the two are found to be very similar.  The absurdity of a samurai world view in modern America is also dealt with and the answer is that perhaps in a chaotic America some code is needed and bushido is not the worst choice.  One of my favorite American made samurai films.

Hirokin: The Last Samurai

American Samurai 6 - Hirokin The Last Samurai

A collection of sword fights in a Tatooine like landscape with just a thread of a plot to link the sword fights together.  The sword fights aren’t terrible but not all that great either.  The lack of comprehensible dialogue, plot structure and logical consistency means that this is possibly the worst American made samurai film ever in a subgenre that has lots of awful films to compete with.

Kill Bill 1 & Kill Bill 2

American Samurai 7 - Kill Bill 1

American Samurai 8 - Kill Bill 2

I love these films! A giant homage to Japanese samurai films and every other cheesy subgenre produced in Japan and Hollywood since the sixties.  Does such a flurry of homage make the film metafictional?  Uma does talk to the third wall directly in Kill Bill 2 and describes the film as a “’roaring rampage of revenge”. The sword scenes are bloody, fun and over the top!  Uma Thurman is a warrior in this film and you believe it!  Uma Thurman has been betrayed by her clan and now has an obligation as a warrior to kill them and makes a list of who has to be killed.  Uma Thurman hesitates a bit when Copperhead is found to be a mother with a daughter but in the end Uma chooses giri over compassion and kills Copperhead.  The main villain is her ex-lover and mentor Bill. Bill introduces him to a daughter they had but she never knew about.  Maybe Uma will let bygones be bygones and they will raise their daughter together.  No way!  Uma kills Bill but sends him off to die on the beach after her fatal blow, the five point palm-exploding heart technique, with a sad forced smile.  Uma even straightens Bill’s suit before he staggers off to die.  Uma cries afterwards as her newly discovered daughter watches television but she has done her duty.

Red Sun

American Samurai 9 - Red Sun

Cowboys play with samurais. Charles Bronson, Ursula Andress and ToshirōMifune are all top actors that combine to make a cocktail that doesn’t quite work but is fun to drink anyway.  Charles Bronson slowly learns about bushido from Toshirō Mifune and learns to respect Toshirō Mifune and his code.  Not a lot of sword play but what is in the movie is competently done.

Samurai Cop

American Samurai 10 - Samurai Cop 1

American Samurai 11 - Samurai Cop 2

The scene below shows a combination of bad dialogue and bad delivery rarely seen in even a straight to video film. Incredibly, there was a sequel to this film (Samurai Cop 2)!  The samurai cop is not a samurai but a bad actor with a sword.

Samurai Girl

American Samurai 12 - Samurai Girl

Samurai Girl is a made for TV mini-series. Jamie Chung is the very pretty heroine and a lot of fun to watch.  This show is basically a teen drama with a thin samurai veneer.  There does seem to be a lot of girl on girl violence!  There is a seppuku scene but overall bushido elements are ignored.

Samurai Jack

American Samurai 13 - Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack is an immensely popular cartoon series. I would say the best cartoon that the Cartoon Network ever made and I like their cartoons in general.  This show is the winner of many awards. Samurai Jack is probably the best American made samurai cartoon.  Actually, the only American made samurai cartoon but still fantastic.

Saturday Night Live Samurai

American Samurai 14 - Saturday Night Live Samurai John Belushi

This was a series of skits in TV series Saturday Night Live.  John Belushi did several skits in which a samurai is forced to do various pedestrian jobs such as working in a hotel and a delicatessen.  The Belushi version of the samurai does not speak English but uses made up Japanese with lots of guttural sounds and screams that capture the speech patterns of chanbara films.  I have copied Belushi’s mannerisms and have been known to do a comic version of seppuku with a pencil or whatever impromptu prop happens to be around.  These skits are still hilarious now as they were then.

Shōgun

American Samurai 15 - Shōgun

This is a TV miniseries about samurai.   Shōgun had a huge positive influence on how Americans viewed samurai and Japanese culture in general.  I watched every episode in B&W on my TV in Howland House with my girlfriend as the episodes aired.  I can safely say this is the made in America samurai film that really made me curious about Asia.  Yoko Shimada played Mariko and because of her performance, having a Japanese girlfriend someday was put on my bucket list.  Perhaps if I had never seen this series then I would have never moved to Asia.

Silver Samurai

American Samurai 16 - Silver Samurai

The Silver Samurai was not a film but a character in The Wolverine: The Path of a Ronin.  The character is a giant robot unlike the human mutant version in the comic book.  The fight between the Silver Samurai robot and Wolverine is probably the best action scene in a film that has little going for it but action scenes.  Wolverine is arguably an American samurai, a ronin specifically, despite the fact he doesn’t use a sword.

Six-String Samurai

American Samurai 20 - Six-String Samurai

This film had excellent sword action. If there were any bushido elements in this film then I missed them.  This is more an homage to American popular music than to Japanese samurai movies.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

American Samurai 17 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Ninjas are the natural enemies of the samurai. Why not have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles go back in time and play at being samurais?  This is a silly but amusing film.

The Last Samurai

American Samurai 18 - The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai is a very controversial film from a historical point of view. Liberties are taken with historical events.  The heroic samurai of the film may in fact have been petty warlords.

Regardless of the historical debate associated with the film, the scenes in which poor Tom Cruise learns to use the katana with a bokken give the audience a good feel as to how kenjutsu is not kendo!  The bokken is a wooden sword that can be used as a weapon in its own right.  Kendo uses a shinai.  The shinai is a bamboo weapon which actually causes the user to learn bad sword fighting habits due to its lightness compared to the steel of a sword.  A shinai is for practice purposes only and quite useless as a weapon.  Practicing with a bokken is a dangerous affair and the shinai was a safe substitute for the bokken when kendo was created for none samurai. Despite the title of the video below, Tom Cruise is practicing kenjutsu not kendo!

Probably the best American samurai film when it comes to lavishness, large scale battle scenes and high production standards.

The Silent Stranger

American Samurai 19 - The Silent Stranger

In Red Sun cowboys meet samurai.  In this film a spaghetti cowboy meets many samurai.  The sword action is amusing and tons of action.   The hero is a cowboy.  Cowboys don’t have any duty versus compassion dynamic as a rule or do they?

Conclusion

The word samurai is often inserted in the title of made in America samurai films for marketing purposes with little regard to prior Japanese samurai conventions in the area of Japanese style swordsmanship or some nod to bushido. The worst culprits are American Samurai, Black Samurai, Hirokin: The Last Samurai, Samurai Cop and The Silent Stranger.  Interestingly, the better films overall are also the films that deal with Japanese samurai conventions and include: Bushido Blade, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Kill Bill, Red Sun, Samurai Girl, Samurai Jack, Saturday Night Live Samurai, and Shōgun.  I would single out Ghost Dog, Kill Bill, and Samurai Jack as the best films in this category.  Both Ghost Dog and Kill Bill have a metafictional dimension.  In Ghost Dog the metafictional dimension is partly directed towards samurai cinema in Japan.

Hugh Fox III - Alkaveda

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Shaun of the Dead vs. Zombieland

Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland are two movies that belong to a very specialized subgenre.  Both movies are romantic, zombie, comedies.  Which of the two is the best movie in this subgenre?  This post will attempt to answer this very important aesthetic question.  Shaun of the Dead is the first film of this subgenre and as far as I know Zombieland is the only the second film of this subgenre.  Humor and zombies have been mixed together before Shaun of the Dead.

George Romero, who arguably started the modern zombie movie craze, as opposed to the prior voodoo zombie movies, with Night of the Living Dead had no comedic elements in his first film of the his long ongoing zombie series of films.  Night of the Living Dead was just one scary film.  I remember watching the film as a teenager in a theatre and children in the row in front of me were crying.  Night of the Living Dead set a new standard for scary and semi-realistic splatter that was very different from the corny monster movies I grew up with prior to this film.

Night of the Living Dead is a black and white film but the fake blood is still scarier than the bright red blood of many modern horror films.  This reminds me that the shower scene in the original Psycho is still one of the scariest horror scenes I have ever seen despite the black and white format.  Perhaps our scariest dreams are in black and white and the surreal nature of black and white harkens to deeper fears than any realistic depiction of blood and violence could.

Romero did interject minor humorous elements to Dawn of the Dead but was much more satiric than humorous. Dawn of the Dead was in part a satire about mindless, and therefore zombie like, consumer culture.  Romero’s fourth film Land of the Dead followed a similar pattern of satire and focused on government.  Diary of the Dead, Romero’s latest film, satirized internet culture and Andy Warhol’s one minute of fame as a goal in contrast to goals of simple survival.  Is satire humor?  This is a question far beyond the scope of this post.  I can say in general Romero’s films do not elicit much in the way of belly laughs and if there is humor then the humor is largely cerebral and will cause a cynical smile to appear on the face of most viewers rather than out and out laughs.

The Evil Dead series did have a fair amount of physical humor and the last movie in the series, Army of Darkness, is actually quite funny and perhaps because of this not nearly as scary as the first film in the series, The Evil Dead.  This seems to be the dilemma of making a good zombie comedy.  How do you make a film that is both scary and funny?  Shaun of the Dead did manage to do this.  Shaun of the Dead is scary.  Shaun of the Dead is also a wonderful comment on romantic relationships.  Did I mention that I am a big fan of Shaun of the Dead?  How does Zombieland compare in these three categories?

Romance

Shaun, of Shaun of the Dead, has been dumped by his girlfriend, Liz, the day before the zombie outbreak.  The reasons his girlfriend dumps Shaun’s sorry butt is that he is a loser.  Not even a big time loser but the typical average loser we all meet every day.  Shaun doesn’t take drugs or gamble.  No the problem is that Shaun doesn’t do much of anything.  His great crime is that he is a lazy sod, a little British English is appropriate here given the British setting of the film, who is in a dead end job and just goes to the pub on every single date and can’t even be bothered to make a proper appointment at the fish place, presumably a romantic restaurant, as opposed to the smoke and alcohol sodden Winchester Pub that is Shaun’s home away from home because he has no drive or imagination to do anything else.  Shaun is as close to being a zombie a human can be.

There is a very clever plot structure where the pre-Z-Day day of Shaun has a parallel structure to the post-Z-Day of Shaun.  Shaun has a largely mindless, boring day before the zombies show up and has the same day all over again and even a lot of the same dialogue but with zombies added to the mix.  I can only imagine the hundreds of hours spent to create this delicate plot construction.  The plot construction makes a message in of itself.  This delicate plot construction absolutely does not exist in Zombieland but I don’t think this is such a relevant point except that some of us do watch zombie films again and again, I do not think and I am alone, and this plot structure gives something the viewer can discover over time.

Shaun manages to convince Liz to leave the relative safety of her apartment to go to the pub which is one of the worst places to sit out a zombie attack.  The zombies energize Shaun and he becomes a zombie killing machine largely with his cricket bat.  The Winchester Pub turns out to have a working Winchester and this is a big deal in England since there is gun control and you can’t just smash the window of a gun store to get some guns and ammo.  Shaun’s go to the pub downtown filled with zombies strategy sucks but you can’t fault his strong right arm as he bashes zombies left and right.  Shaun manages to get his whole party killed, including his best friend, but he gets the girl in the end so I suppose this is a happy ending.  Z-Day is shorthand for zombie day.  Z-Day is when the zombies show up.

Liz doesn’t need a lot of excitement post Z-Day since she got her fill of living on the edge on Z-Day.  They live happily ever after.  Oh, who are kidding?  You just know that Liz dumps Shaun’s sorry butt a year after the events of Z-Day since Shaun is and always will be a loser who can’t grow and can’t move on.  The ultimate evidence of this is that Shaun keeps his zombified best friend around to play video games with.

The overall satiric message of Shaun of the Dead is that we were practically zombies before Z-Day, Z-Day would give us a temporary rush of adrenaline and the day after Z-Day, nothing would change.  I totally agree.  This is a much deeper satiric message than some Romero hippy nonsense about consumer culture, government or the internet.  Humans are lazy mindless sods regardless of temporary historical conditions that may temporarily energize them and this is the bigger problem and heck you might as well laugh and enjoy the show.

The romance of Zombieland centers on the virginity of Columbus.  Columbus finally gets to stroke the hair of his hot female neighbor because she is in a state of shock after being attacked by a homeless man.  The homeless man was a zombie and she turns into a zombie and tries to kill Columbus.  Columbus has not had a lot of luck in the romance department.

Later, Columbus meets a pair of sisters.   The sisters are con artists.  The older sister is Wichita.  Wichita is the object of the affections of Columbus.  This romance is so poorly developed I do not even know where to begin.  Wichita is a simplistic femme fatale.  The characterization of Wichita is almost insulting to women.

Wichita is supposed to have some trust issues with men that preclude her from even displaying the most basic common sense.  We are led to believe the two sisters are smart enough to be major con artists and wrap men around their little fingers with their feminine wiles but are not smart enough to realize they want to keep the muscle, the men, around for protection.  Wichita is not even consistently an idiot.

The dialogue between Columbus and Wichita is forced, cliché and pure Hollywood.   Wichita is just too hot for Columbus and maybe since he is practically the last man on Earth you might buy the hook up but barely.  You never really believe the romance between Columbus and Wichita.  The relationship is pure Hollywood were the loser everyman gets the hot chick.  This is a type of wish fulfillment for the loser male audience and guarantees ticket sales.  Some explanation of Wichita’s trust issues might have made her a more believable character but this is doubtful.

The younger sister, Little Rock, is even more one dimensional than Wichita.  She is twelve and apparently smart to do, as mentioned, cons but she has never heard of Willie Nelson, Gandhi, or Bill Murray.  I guess this level of ignorance is supposed to be funny.  I didn’t laugh.

The sisters are supposed to be smart enough to get the drop on a super zombie killing machine, Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, twice but dumb enough to believe an amusement park is free of zombies because of a rumor.  The sisters are so stupid that they turn on all the lights and sounds of the amusement park at night!  I guess the idea of scouting the amusement park during the day quietly is just too clever for a couple of dumb females.  Predictably turning all the lights and sounds on attracts an army of zombies from miles around.  The men must come to the rescue and Columbus gets the girl in the end because of his act of bravery which violates his rule about never being a hero.  The women in Zombieland are furniture that have barely more characterization than the zombies.  The women are objects created to make the fight scene in the amusement park happen.

I found the men in Zombieland believable and really liked the description of Columbus as a nerdy, neurotic, shut in that has survived because of his ticks.  Woody Harrelson does a fantastic performance as a red neck zombie killing machine.  Columbus and Tallahassee are a classic Hollywood odd couple that is predictable but works.

Shaun of the Dead clearly wins over Zombieland in the romance category!

Zombie

There are major differences between the Shaun of the Dead zombies and the Zombieland zombies.  The biggest difference is that the zombies in Shaun of the Dead are slow zombies.  The zombies in Zombieland are fast zombies.  Romero zombies are generally slow.  They shamble and if you cannot outrun a Romero zombie then you need to stop going to McDonalds forever.  The Shaun of the Dead zombies are even slower than the Romero zombies.  I mean these guys just crawl.  Snails are whizzing past the Shaun of the Dead zombies.

Fast zombies first gained prominence in 28 Days Later.  There had been fast zombies in the horrible, atrocious, criminally liable, stupid, bad, stinky, remakes of the Romero zombie films, films that never should have happened, but no one really watched those films so they don’t count.  28 Days Later is a great film and in the top ten of zombie films of all time, the less said about the sequel the better, and the fast zombie introduced added something special to zombie films.   I am Legend came after 28 Days Later and had even faster zombies that were also super strong and super agile.  However, if you make the zombies too fast and too strong then you have to wonder how humans could survive at all.

I would like to make the following plot observation about fast zombies and slow zombies.  Slow zombies allow the smart, but not necessarily physically fit, everyman to shine.  Dealing with slow zombies is more about having steady nerves than being physically fit.  You got to be in really good shape to handle fast zombies.  How many cerebral but not necessarily fit heroes are out there?  Grissom, of CSI: Las Vegas?  Dr Who?  Not many.  As a smart, debatable, but not very fit, guy I like smart and less fit heroes.  I think there are a lot of guys like me out there and if you are planning to write a zombie screen play, keep this in mind.

Slow zombies also allow a lot more dialogue!  Shaun of the Dead characters have tons of time to yak and yak and fortunately the conversation is marvelous.  Shaun would be dead in Zombieland.  Shaun has a paunch and has not done anything more challenging than lift a pint of beer in years and would be easily caught by a fast zombie.

A big part of zombie lore is the ongoing argument about rules of survival.  The apex of this sort of argument is the book The Zombie Survival Guide.  Shaun of the Dead breaks just about every zombie survival rule for comedic effect.  Shaun does not stay put as instructed by the government via television.  Shaun abandons the more fortified, second story, and isolated position of the apartment of Liz for a less fortified, first story and exposed position in a pub downtown.  Shaun wants love not survival and gets love at the expense of the survival of everyone on his team but this girlfriend.

Zombie rules of survival play a more prominent role in Zombieland than in Shaun of the Dead.  The premise of Zombieland is that Columbus has developed a series of rules that have enabled him to survive and are referenced throughout the film.  I find the rules that Columbus has created are funny but not very useful and will deal with this in a later post.

The zombies in both movies are not exactly Romero zombies.  Zombieland zombies suffer from some sort of mad cow disease that was contracted by patient zero via a hamburger.  In this regards the Zombieland zombies resemble the diseased zombies of 28 Days rather than a classic Romero zombie.  This also means that body shots can work on Zombieland zombies.  Also, if someone dies in Zombieland then they are not infected and they do not automatically become a zombie.  The Shaun of the Dead zombies are slow but only destroying the zombie brain kills a Shaun of the Dead zombie.  The origins of the Shaun of the Dead zombies are slightly mysterious but zombification appears to have some sort of scientific rather than supernatural cause.  The zombies of both Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland can apparently be fooled by acting like a zombie.  In both cases zombies do not mess with zombies and human acting like a zombie can walk among the zombies safely.  Bill Murray uses this trick to run around a zombie infested Hollywood.  Shaun and his party use the fake zombie trick to temporarily get past a crowd of zombies.  This is unlike the Romero zombies that have some sort of unerring instinct that allows them to tell if someone really is a zombie and cannot be fooled.

So which movie has better zombies?  The zombies in Zombieland are scarier looking.  The zombies in Shaun of the Dead are more interesting.  In Shaun of the Dead we get a before and after look at the zombies.  We see the zombies as humans the day before.  The zombies in Shaun of the Dead are less generic and keep some of their human habits and this trait is later exploited by humans after Z-Day.  The zombie kill of the day in Zombieland is also a lot of fun.  This is a close one but I found the Shaun of the Dead zombies to be more entertaining.

Comedy

This is the most difficult category to compare since humor is largely subjective.  Shaun of the Dead as a film set in Great Britain, with British actors, and produced in Great Britain and reflects British humor.  Zombieland is pure US style humor.  There is more “wit” in Shaun of the Dead.  I mean by wit, carefully constructed dialogue that leads to humor.  In general, Shaun of the Dead is the more carefully constructed screenplay.  I have no doubt ten times more energy and time went into the Shaun of the Dead screen play than the Zombieland screenplay.

Shaun of the Dead includes situational humor, physical humor, and deadpan irony.  Most of the humor in Zombieland is just situational humor and verbal put downs.  The range of humor is much narrower in Zombieland than in Shaun of the Dead.  Bill Murray does an extended cameo as himself.  Bill Murray is one of my favorite comedians but I didn’t find him that funny in this film.  Shaun of the Dead wins in the comedy area as well.

Conclusion

Shaun of the Dead is superior in the area of romance, zombies and comedy.  Shaun of the Dead is the better Rom-Zom-Com!

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