US Release Date: 09-24-2004
Directed by: Edgar Wright
- Simon Pegg, as
- Kate Ashfield, as
- Nick Frost, as
- Lucy Davis, as
- Dylan Moran, as
- Bill Nighy, as
- Penelope Wilton, as
- Jessica Stevenson as
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead.
With a name like Shaun of the Dead, you might expect that this is merely a spoof of zombie movies like Dawn of the Dead. However, it is so much more than that. It is a zombie movie and it is a comedy that plays with the standard conventions of the zombie genre, but more importantly than that it stands on its own as a hilarious, laugh-out-loud, movie with fully fleshed out characters, that even manages to supply a few genuine scares.
Shaun is a 29-year-old slacker who enjoys hanging out at his local pub - the Winchester - with his roommate and best friend, Ed. When his girlfriend, Liz, dumps him because of his lackadaisical approach to life, Shaun becomes depressed. Ed attempts to cheer his friend up by getting him extremely drunk.
On the following morning, Shaun, with the combination of an extreme hangover and his own apathetical approach to life, fails to notice that the world around him has changed considerably. As we overhear from a passing radio, an American satellite, returning from Jupiter, has unexpectedly re-entered the atmosphere over southern England. The apparent result is that most of the population, including the recent dead, are now zombies.
After eventually waking up to the danger, Shaun finally makes a decision in his life and comes up with a plan to deal with the apocalypse. He decides to pick up Liz and his mum, and then head to the Winchester to weather out the zombie situation. With Ed in tow, that's exactly what he sets out to do.
One of the many great things about this film is how for once, the characters in the film never turn into gun toting supermen. Since this is England, there aren't guns lying around in local stores anyway, but even when Shaun finally does get a hold of one, he is unable to hit anything with it. Instead, Shaun, Ed and the rest of the motley crew that he eventually assembles, must battle the undead with whatever happens to be lying around, such as cricket bats, garden tools, records, and lawn furniture.
Another way that the film differs from its American predecessors is in the very Britishness of its characters. After being bitten by a zombie, Shaun's stepfather (Bill Nighy) retorts, "It's alright, I ran it under the tap." Later, Shaun's mum reveals that she too has been bitten, but "… didn't want to make a fuss."
There are moments when the story is gently poking fun of Zombie movies, but always in a way that fans of those movies will enjoy. Sprinkled throughout the story are also sly references to earlier zombie films. "They're coming to get you Barbara," is said by one character in an obvious reference to Night of the Living Dead, and later a radio commentator can be heard saying, "Rumors that it was all started by rage infected monkeys, have not been proven," an obvious nod to last year's zombie flick; 28 Days Later.
Well-paced, very funny, and featuring a likeably dopey cast that you can root for, Shaun of the Dead is one of the best comedies of 2004.
Lucy Davis, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Simon Pegg Penelope Wilton and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead.
Although I did not care for Shaun of the Dead after the first viewing, it has come to grow on me. It is a great movie, that has become a Halloween tradition with my sons.
My favorite scene is when the wannabe actress is teaching the rest of the survivors how to act like a zombie. She tells them all to mimic the blank expresssion of the zombies. She then tells Shaun's mom that she is doing a great job only to realize that she is doing her normal expression.
Scott mentioned how they use whatever weapons they can against the zombies. I like when they decide to throw vinyl records at them. They go through the albums only throwing the ones they do not like. Ed asks Shaun about his Prince collection. "Purple Rain?" "No." "Sign O the Times?" "No." "The Batman Soundtrack?" "Throw it!"
Many funny jokes are quite subtle. Scott mentioned Shaun's parents taking the Zombie bites with a stiff upper lip. I like Ed. Even though they are being over run with Zombies he still asks to drive the car. In another scene Ed takes a picture of Shaun and a zombie girl. As they realize that she is actually undead, Ed is casually advancing the film to the next frame, as if out of habit.
There are several scenes where the characters yell at each other when they should be making snide or sarcastic remarks. This is a comedy but occasionally gets itself stuck in some ridiculous dramatic moment. The worst such situation is when several characters are mad at each other in the pub. They are standing with a gun pointed at one person while broken glass is at two other's throats. It is not a particularly tense scene but it is not a funny one either.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead.
Shaun of the Dead works because it is one of those movies that knows exactly what it is trying to be. It is a great spoof of the Zombie genre. And these are the old fashioned kind of zombie, you know the ones that stumble around clumsily and have only the most rudimentary intelligence. Here they make fun of that by easily running around the zombies and hitting them in the head with anything available.
Like Eric I found the scene where the stars make there way through a crowd of the undead by passing as zombies, after rehearsing of course, to be quite funny. What sets this apart from most horror movie spoofs, from Young Frankenstein to the Scary Movie series, is that here there is real scary tension and plenty of gore, yet even in the most tense moments the humor remains. It's a fun mix.
I agree with Scott, this movie contains the one ingredient necessary for both a comedy and a horror movie (and any other genre for that matter), characters that you invest emotionally with and root for. Very few movies are both scary and funny, count Shaun of the Dead among them. Unlike many movies that start strong but then run out of steam this one delivers right up to the credits.
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (2004)