NEXT-LEVEL FORESHADOWING AND CALLBACKS WITH EDGAR WRIGHT
SPOILER ALERT! Look, let’s face it. We’ve all seen Shaun of the Dead at this stage. And if you haven’t, then you should. So, let’s assume we’ve all seen it and fill the page with glorious spoilers. But don’t say you weren’t warned…
You’ve seen many video essays on why Edgar Wright is the king of visual comedy, clever wit, in-jokes and cultural referencing. There’s been plenty of talk and quick-cuts of his quick-cuts.
And yes, there’s been talk of his skill at foreshadowing events in the most subtle and clever ways. I’m sure we’ve all seen the amazing edit done by From Screen to Script:
So why am I going on about it again then? Why not?
I’ve seen the film so many times, I know large parts of it by heart. I recently re-watched it after a long time of not watching it and started to notice lots of tiny, more subtle moments of foreshadowing events to follow, and callbacks to jokes/dialogue from earlier in the film.
Foreshadowing is a way of setting up something for the viewer, to prepare them for a future event to occur. Here’s a great example from Joe Cornish’s brilliant Attack the Block!
A callback is a direct reference to a previous scene or moment, calling us back to remember it.
In my opinion (which is often wrong), Edgar Wright combines these two techniques in Shaun of the Dead. And he brings it to another level.
There’s the obvious scene where Shaun goes to shop on his way to work and, later in the film, takes the same walk to the shop (in a slightly more hungover state), not noticing (because of his hungover state) the zombie apocalypse that’s happened around him.
But that’s far too obvious. And there’s plenty more obvious foreshadowing and callbacks used throughout the film. I’m going to focus on the less obvious, and in my opinion, even more impressive examples.
For example in the much talked about walk to the shop scene, did you notice that in the background behind Shaun, you can see the wedding zombie (“Oohh, he’s got an arm off!”) in the shop buying something. That’s the kind of subtlety that brings Wright’s foreshadowing and callbacks to another level entirely.
“Don’t exacerbate things…”
“There’s never anything on…”
Climbing in the window
“It’s on random…”
“That’s the second record I ever bought!”
“Next time I see him, he’s dead.”
“Why don’t you go live in the shed!?”
“Top left! Reload!”
“You’ve got red on you.”
Ending with an obvious one, just for the hell of it.
Here’s the full lot: