Like any good game, you have to know the rules to play. From the opening credits of Shed of the Dead, it’s obvious that horror homage is in full effect. Keep on eye out for the little Easter eggs that make clear the influences and see how many you spot on the first watch. The genre adoration doesn’t end with an animated sequence. Instead, the filmmaker Drew Cullingham brings together decades of classics in three well known horror icons: Michael Berryman, Kane Hodder, and Bill Moseley. While only in secondary roles, it should be noted each one puts in fun performances that go against the stereotypes which accompany their most famous roles; Hodder as a gentile Canadian farmer, Berryman as a wig-wearing BDSM fan that is left with a rather unappealing reminder of his fetish (I’ll leave that one to you to figure out), and Moseley as the silent but heroic figure that you’re sure is destined to save them all.
More important than the film’s pedigree is something else lurking under its rotting zombie skin—the real game. While this could have been another Shaun of the Dead parody, which it more than is, the film explores the psychology of the mind in a way I’m not even sure the actors or writer-director Cullingham even anticipated. The first glimpses of protagonist Trevor (Spencer Brown) aren’t spent in reality. Instead, they present him through his own vision of himself—Casimir, a character victorious in all aspects of life. When Trevor is revealed in the midst of caring for the battle figure, the change of pace is a stark message that this supposed hero has retreated to a dream, but how much of one?
As the story unfolds, this balance between reality and the dream world of Casimir becomes more blurred with each occurrence. Is this how Trevor is handling the violence and destruction of the real world or is something else at play? At one point in the film, I actually started questioning how much of this was truly happening. It’s an interesting idea to play around with the possibility that the contrasts between worlds might be more complex than a viewer could have imagined. For all we know, a version of this story is unfolding in his mind in the allotment shed somewhere around the killing of Mr. Parsons and the shovel locking him into this once sanctuary.
This theory might also explain the women and sexuality that line the film’s narrative. Among the film, sexuality is a constant. Trevor’s wife Bobbi (Lauren Socha) and her friend Harriet (Emily Booth) are Shed of the Dead’s sole female characters (I’m not including those featured in the “dream” sequences). Both come off as caricatures and that very well may be on purpose. If this is presented through the eyes of Trevor, it could explain the decisions they make and their overall attitude towards him. The details make me wonder what they might have really been if we had explored them further through other eyes.
Another clue that this is playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons with their viewers—the scene between Bobbi and Trevor in the shed as the world comes closing in around them. Would you do what Bobbi did in those moments? Without going into details, I can assure you a woman would never suggest oral sex. Instead, we would be planning out a survival strategy that rivals anything ever accomplished. Let’s be honest, whether it is a delusion or not, Trevor is obsessed with sex. It might come from the fact he feels powerless in life or maybe he just isn’t getting enough physical interaction. Whatever the reason, the desire is consuming many of his decisions.
My third clue that this might be a delusion goes back to the 3 horror icons. While Hodder’s Mr. Parsons is presented earlier than my theory of the shed incident, it could be entirely possible that Trevor could be seeing not only Parsons but Moseley’s Doc and Berryman’s Derek from the films he’s watched. Of course, he would never have seen Hodder’s face in Friday the 13th, hence the appearance as that gentleman farmer. This opens up another possibility: what if none of this happened? Let’s go back even farther than the introduction of the character and his neighbors at the allotment shed. Could he be dying of an asthma attack? Is there an event off-screen that we’re unaware of? Did something happen with the distilled vodka that poisoned him? The outcomes and reasons are endless. Much like a game that Trevor’s playing, it’s up to you to figure out the reasons and rationales. Shed of the Dead is a game in and of itself. Play along and see what you find.
Shed of the Dead
Release Date: May 17th 2019 (Theatrical) and June 6th, 2019 (DVD, VOD)
Director/Writer: Drew Cullingham.
Cast: Kane Hodder, Spencer Brown, Lauren Socha, Emily Booth, Bill Moseley, Brian Blessed