Trevor (Spencer Brown) is an unemployed waster who would rather be spending time in his shed on his allotment than doing anything to improve his lot in life, and that’s down to him having a rich inner fantasy existence where he can imagine himself as a powerful wizard warrior laying waste to the demon hordes, all with the help of his carefully painted miniatures. However, this stunted idyll may be under threat when one of the other allotment owners, the Canadian Mr Parsons (Kane Hodder), knocks on his door to complain about the state of Trevor's plot in comparison with the others around it - what could save his shed now? How about the zombie apocalypse?
If the thought of a British zombie comedy brings to mind more Shaun of the Dead than Cockneys vs Zombies, that would be because the Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg film was such a gamechanger for the horror genre, opening the floodgates for a tidal wave of similar gorefests, both humorous and otherwise. It remained the benchmark not only for Brit flicks, but around the world as imitators sought to get in on the act, often by lifting whole concepts or scenes from Shaun's adventures: both Shed of the Dead and, for instance, Anna and the Apocalypse shared a sequence where their protagonist wandered obliviously along suburban streets while the carnage erupted around them.
Even changing the first word of the title of Shaun of the Dead to an almost identical one suggested writer and director Drew Cullingham may have been trying to pull a fast one in the manner of those cheapo rip-off merchants from across the Atlantic, The Asylum, but on closer examination it became clear he was as keen to pay tribute as he was to place his own stamp on the zombie clichés. The main difference between Shed and Shaun was the tone of the humour: they did overlap in the self-effacing nature of some of the gags, but quite often Shed was willing to go places where Wright and Pegg would not, adding filthy jokes to the mix that were usually fairly unpleasant, and not bloody either.
And while you were meant to warm to Shaun and even his lazy best friend (Nick Frost), you may not be too sure how far you were intended to endorse Trevor. He does have a shrewish wife, Bobbi (Lauren Socha), who despises him so much you wonder what they could have possibly seen in each other to bring them together (and they're not that old - this marriage must have soured within months of the exchange of vows), which should by all rights make the hero more sympathetic, but he is quickly established as less a dreamer, more a self-centred arsehole. Brown did his best, and he did have the comedy nous to squeeze a few decent laughs from selected lines, but he wasn't the only cast member to encounter a character design that was more offputting than amusing as intended.
Did we really need not one but two comedy setpieces involving male masturbation, for example? It was as if Cullingham did not quite trust his humorous instincts and gave into laddish crudity when in other areas it was obvious he had plenty of talent in seeing the ridiculous in a self-serious genre whose fans often couldn't discern when they were being fed the same meal over and over by way of an escapism that was ironically chasing its tail rather than pushing at the boundaries of social commentary that its instigator George A. Romero embraced all those years ago. Fair enough, with a zomcom you didn't need to get too heavy, and Shed of the Dead was serviceable enough with a surprisingly good cast, including Brian Blessed narrating, Michael Berryman in bondage gear, Emily Booth in, er, bondage gear, Jason Vorhees stalwart Hodder as an anglophile, and Bill Moseley as a zombie hunter whose Christmasses have all come at once. Yet you feel it could have gone further, been sharper: the promise was certainly there. Music by Reinhard Besser.