A celebration of comedic independence

Published 8:04 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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Crossing the pond to appear on our screen this week are two British comedies that left their audiences dying of laughter. We welcome these delightful diversions on their own cinematic merit, but also in pursuit of pairing films with the holiday at hand, our independence day. Two English comedies indulging in gallows humor seemed most fitting for a time remembering their defeat. Those two excellent films in question are “Shaun of the Dead” (Wright 2004) and “Death at a Funeral” (Oz 2007) Of course, we at Tryon Theatre are largely anglophiles, showing many British films each year, so the skewering of these films and culture in our theme is strictly loving, we assure you.

“Shaun of the Dead” (a cheeky twist on “Dawn of the Dead” (Romero 1978)) is the definition of satire, lovingly tearing apart a well-trodden genre, exchanging all dread and terror for laughter and charm. So while “Shaun” does depict plenty of zombies, and all the decaying carnage to come with them, it does so with any sense of fear evacuated from the situation, with the goofy hilarity of the characters flipping the emotional dial. Shaun (Simon Pegg), the film’s titular hero, is a middling everyman, living a zombified existence of repetition and listlessness, accompanied in boredom by his best mate, Ed (Nick Frost). Their languid routine is suddenly interrupted by the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse, and they rise to the occasion as best they know how: with limited effort and copious pints of lager. Their lovable ineptitude is matched only by that of the zombies, and their ensuing conflict brings far more laughs than bites. 

The second film of this week, “Death at a Funeral,” is an expertly written comedy of errors, with each decision made by its characters, no matter well intended or poor, yielding increasingly problematic and poetic results. The event at the center of the film is a funeral, that of a beloved family patriarch, held in the family’s beautiful village estate and populated by the classic faces of a funeral: the bereaving family, the odd assortment of friends and the occasional the complete strangers, some of whom are present for more than simply reasons of support. “Death at a Funeral” has an ensemble cast, with many players’ stories interweaving, yet it does have a focal protagonist, Daniel, the eldest son of the recently passed Edward. Daniel is played by the wonderful Matthew McFayden, perfecting a display of meekness and reservation throughout the film’s escalating madness. As the characters mingle, and their situations become increasingly erratic, the insanity does culminate in the film’s prophetic title, with the exact nature of this occurrence being a reward for navigating the comedic chaos at hand. 

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The 6 showtimes a week are split into 3 per film: Shaun of the Dead (Wed., Thurs. mat, Sat.) and Death at a Funeral (Thurs. evening, Fri., Sun.). Both films did not have an available open captions file, so Thursday’s showtimes will NOT have subtitles this week. 

We hope to share the laughter of both these films with you soon!