There comes a day in every man's life when he has to get off the couch... and kill some zombies. When flesh-eating zombies are on the hunt for a bite to eat, it's up to slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his best pal (Nick Frost) to save their friends and family from becoming the next entree. Satisfy your bloodthirsty appetite with the movie that masters of horror and film critics alike are hailing as the funniest and scariest movie of the year. Novelist Stephen King gushes "it's a 10 on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic" and Newsweek calls Shaun of the Dead "a bloody hoot!" It's a screamingly hilarious zomedy that will have you dying with laughter.
Like most horror movies, zombie films inevitably battle movie snobbery. Usually relegated to the realm of 'exploitation' or dismissed as lacking serious merit, zombie films have however often transcended their B-Movie brief: to scare the pants off audiences before the main attraction.
From early movie history two titles in particular exemplify this conundrum: producer Val Lewton's I Walk With A Zombie (1943) offered up a treatise on colonialism, religious imperialism and the white man's ingrained fear of exotic cultures (for anyone who cared to listen), while ten years prior Universal's White Zombie (1932) starring Bela Legosi, presented a veritable cornucopia of comments on racial subjugation, America's slave past and 'gender politics'. And later on Pittsburgh filmmaker George Romero took the zombie film to a new level, incorporating the civil rights movement of 1960s America into his frighteningly realistic zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968).
The work by such horror pioneers was significant. Obviously not all zombie films to follow would measure up to the standards set by these directors, but the benchmark was well and truly set. And the good – and great – films nearly always layer an allegory about contemporary life on top of the requisite terror, gore and monsters.
In this age of horror movie send ups, Shaun of the Dead defies expectations, a refreshingly authentic and more satisfying zombie film than one might have anticipated given that its creators hail from TV comedy and stand up. But these guys are not your average band of jaded TV comedians, polluting the airwaves with recycled jokes and collecting paychecks from bad sitcoms. As Channel Four 'Britcom' Spaced and sketch comedy show Big Train revealed (both shown on ABC-TV), this mob were young n' smart, still inspired, in love with pop culture and film, plus very, very funny.
Fans of Spaced will recognise the names on Shaun of the Dead's marquis. Director Edgar Wright co-writes and directs Shaun, his first feature; co-writer/star Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, Nick Frost is his best friend Ed and Jessica Stevenson is in a smaller role, playing neighbourhood friend Yvonne.
A veteran of 'sharehouses', Shaun is a twenty-something bloke drifting through his life. (Think Australian author John Birmingham from He Died With A Felafel In His Hand transplanted to London suburbia and you'll get the picture). Stuck in a dead end job as a whitegoods salesman, Shaun would rather spend his time with best friend Ed than his schoolteacher girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). When the local neighbourhood becomes infested with zombies the only safe place for Shaun, his mum and his buddies is the local pub, The Winchester. A pint and a panic is the plan until Shaun begins to shape up and find the anti-hero within.
Yes, this is another twenty-something rite of passage movie but it's a good one. Shaun of the Dead is fun and filled with genuine pathos, scares and, believe it or not, human drama. As our titular hero Shaun, Pegg spends much of the film shedding a well-crafted tear as a guy genuinely terrified of not only the zombies at hand, but the thought that his life stay the same and worse, that he may lose everyone he loves.
Other than the hilarious comedy, the great timing between players, excellent writing involved and cool zombies that flood the streets, the best thing about Shaun of the Dead though is that it could actually be considered a better remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead than the recent official Hollywood offering.
Shaun of the Dead may have started out as a Playstation sketch in Spaced, but its roots lie very much in film and not video games. (Zombie film Resident Evil can't boast the same which is why it fails as a movie). Pegg, Wright and co. clearly understand the intrinsic value of the zombie flick. Shaun Of The Dead is filled with sly statements about our self-possessed, technocratic world, overflowing with people existing on autopilot, living to work instead of working to live.