Shed of the Dead struggles to separate itself from the obvious influence of other, better zombie films. Peculiarly, though, the main aspect of the film that feels out of place is the depiction and support of the overt sexualization of the female leads by the male protagonists. As the title suggests, the film centers around a zombie apocalypse — but rather than creating likable characters that overcome their circumstances in a heroic manner, Drew Cullingham chooses to position the film from the viewpoint of those who are constantly victims of their circumstances.
It’s an odd approach that, especially in the early portion of the film, makes it difficult for us to decide whether Cullingham is depicting this behavior as a warning — to show the dangers and horror of men who constantly live their lives in a fantasy world where their unwanted sexual advances toward women are accepted — or whether he simply does not notice these tone-deaf aspects which recur throughout his film.
Unfortunately for Cullingham, many of cinema’s best have ventured into the zombie genre, so it is incredibly difficult to cover new territory. It is really no surprise, then, that the zombie elements in this film are fairly standard compared to other films in the genre. The tone of the film is reminiscent of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, yet Cullingham can’t quite nail its comedic timing. Buddy comedies within the zombie genre are quite customary, and Shed of the Dead does not add much to the already-saturated genre.
What the film may lack in originality, however, Cullingham makes up for in populating his film with several iconic horror genre actors — from Michael Berryman to Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley — and the best aspects of Shed of the Dead involve one (or more) of these actors on screen. Cullingham’s passion for horror is clearly on display with the cast he was given, as well as the multiple allusions made to other films from the genre, so the film plays out much like a love-letter. The constant cameos from some of the most recognizable faces from horror films in the past 20 years helping to make the film as exciting and fun as it is.
While Cullingham set out to create a fun, light-hearted comedy filled with some of horror’s best actors, it’s in his depiction of the male fantasy that the film’s tone begins to contradict his underlying intent — and it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the many instances of sexist dialogue. That’s not to say Cullingham’s depiction of the dangers of male fantasy isn’t spot-on (it is), but rather that he fails to show the consequences that such fantasies can have on the women affected by them.