Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Bill Nighy, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Penelope Wilton, Peter Serafinowicz, Lucy Davis, and Dylan Moran
Length: 1 hour and 39 minutes
Genre: Comedy, horror
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.”
Everything seems to be going wrong for Shaun (Simon Pegg); he is stuck in a dead-end job, living with two roommates who don’t get along, trying to avoid upsetting his step-father (Bill Nighy), and clinging to his relationship with his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield). Liz, however, wants change for the better and when Shaun isn’t willing to do so, she breaks things off. What follows is a night of depressed drinking between Shaun and his best friend, Ed (Nick Frost), before a hungover Sunday that happens to be when the community is taken over by zombies. After fending off the undead, Shaun and Ed are determined to save not only Shaun’s mother (Penelope Wilton), but Liz and her friends by going to the only place they believe is safe: the Winchester pub.
As in all three movies in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead (2004) makes use of quick, clever dialogue to not only entertain, but emulate the cyclical nature of storytelling. Many lines in the film are repeated, albeit in vastly different circumstances. When Shaun wakes up before work and sees Ed playing a first-person shooter video game, he gives advice by telling Ed when to reload and where the enemy is. These lines are repeated in the bar when Shaun is shooting at zombies, as is the line “Leave him alone!”, referring to their now-zombified- roommate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), attacking Ed; the line was spoken earlier when Pete was insulting Ed. The plot is also given away in a seemingly normal line spoken by Ed, where he details their drinking plans for Sunday after Shaun has been dumped. Little details like these help to bring the art of storytelling into what could have simply been a parody of the zombie genre.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) doesn’t fall into the parody category because, though it is comedic, it does take the genre seriously. There are loving homages to famous zombie films, like using music from them and making references to their characters, in addition to poking fun at some of the genre’s clichés. The survivors use a zombie impaled on a pole to learn how to mimic his movements in order to sneak through a nearby horde, albeit in the form of an acting class led by Dianne (Lucy Davis). Shaun and Ed also accidentally hit a man with a car when fleeing to his mother’s house, and are relieved to find that it was just a zombie. Their absolute refusal to use the word “zombie”, as it is ridiculous, is another poke at the lack of self-awareness in horror movies. Though this film is very funny, there is also an ample amount of character growth and interaction.
Shaun has lost his girlfriend, who was the one big positive in his life, and it is the coming of the zombie apocalypse that puts things into perspective for him. He realizes how important she is to him and takes every step to save her in this dangerous world. It is also this event that explores the relationships and dynamics between the characters in the group. Shaun is able to bond with his step-father, Philip, before the latter dies and turns into a zombie. The dire situation allows Philip to open up in order to make sure Shaun knows he cared. Shaun is also able to make decisions on the spot, despite being constantly questioned by David (Dylan Moran), who is still in love with Liz from when they were in college. These seemingly important social issues pale in comparison to the fight for survival going on, but they also reflect realistic behavior in dangerous circumstances in more than a comedic way.
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I have seen this movie; I do know that I watched it at least two times just to write a comparative analysis between it and The World’s End (2013) when I was in college, plus the one time for this review, so we can say at least three times minimum. This is where Wright, Pegg, and Frost got their start in feature films and it is fantastic that they have been able to carry on their impeccable style through the remainder of the trilogy. Though the acting is a bit better in Hot Fuzz (2007), and the themes more specific in The World’s End (2013), Shaun of the Dead (2004) is what laid the groundwork for their brand of comedy laden, articulate film that is both entertaining and thought provoking. I am not a fan of zombie movies in the slightest, but this is a film that transcends its genre through the cultural impact it has had and the legacy it created for three amazing talents.
Verdict: 5 slices of fried gold out of 5
Recommended for: Adults, zombie fans, people who pay attention, fans of the word “Winchester”, people who don’t mind cursing, fans of Simon Pegg, fans of Edgar Wright, fans of Nick Frost, and you (assuming you’re older than 17)!
Not recommended for: Children, scaredy cats, people who don’t pay attention, the squeamish, those who dislike zombie movies, people that can’t understand English accents, or babies (don’t bring a baby to a horror film you weirdo).