Shaun of the Dead
British horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead is a scream in all senses of the word. Brain-hungry zombies shamble through the streets of London, but all unambitious electronics salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) cares about is his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who just dumped him. With the help of his slacker roommate Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun fights his way across town to rescue Liz, but the petty concerns of life keep getting in the way: When they’re trying to use vinyl records to decapitate a pair of zombies, Shaun and Ed bicker about which bands deserve…
British horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead is a scream in all senses of the word. Brain-hungry zombies shamble through the streets of London, but all unambitious electronics salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) cares about is his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who just dumped him. With the help of his slacker roommate Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun fights his way across town to rescue Liz, but the petty concerns of life keep getting in the way: When they’re trying to use vinyl records to decapitate a pair of zombies, Shaun and Ed bicker about which bands deserve preservation—New Order they keep, but Sade becomes a lethal frisbee. Many zombie movies are comedies by accident, but Shaun of the Dead is deliberately and brilliantly funny, while still delivering a few delicious jolts of fear. Also featuring the stealthy comic presence of Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and some familar faces from The Office. —Bret Fetzer
It’s no disparagement to describe Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead as playing like an extended episode of Spaced. Not only does the movie have the rather modest scope of a TV production, it also boasts the snappy editing, smart camera moves, and deliciously post-modern dialogue familiar from the sitcom, as well as using many of the same cast: Pegg’s Shaun and Nick Frost’s Ed are doppelgangers of their Spaced characters, while Jessica Stevenson and Peter Serafinowicz appear in smaller roles. Unlike the TV series, it’s less important for the audience to be in on the movie in-jokes, though it won’t hurt if you know George Romero’s famous Dawn of the Dead trilogy, which is liberally plundered for zombie behaviour and mythology.
Shaun is a loser, stuck in a dead-end job and held back by his slacker pal Ed. Girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is exasperated by his lack of ambition and unceremoniously dumps him. As a result, Shaun misses out on what is apparently the end of the world. In a series of beautifully choreographed and edited scenes, including hilarious tracking shots to and from the local shop, he spectacularly fails to notice the death toll and subsequent zombie plague. Only when one appears in their back garden do Shaun and Ed take notice, hurling sundry kitchen appliances at the undead before breaking out the cricket bat. The catastrophe proves to be the catalyst for Shaun to take charge of his life, sort out his relations with his dotty mum (Penelope Wilton) and distant stepdad (Bill Nighy), and fight to win back his ex-girlfriend. Lucy Davis from The Office and Dylan Moran o! f Black Books fame head the excellent supporting cast. —Mark Walker
Barnes and Noble
The title of this British-made black comedy gives everything away: Shaun is a cheeky send-up of zombie movies in general and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in particular. Whereas the Romero film largely took place in a shopping mall, Shaun centers around the working-class pub where the eponymous protagonist (played with self-deprecating charm by Simon Pegg) and his best friend, Ed (Nick Frost), spend virtually all their spare time—much to the chagrin of Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), who gives the underachieving store clerk his walking papers just before a mysterious malady turns newly deceased villagers into bloodthirsty zombies. Gathering his sweetie, his mother, and some of his friends into the pub, Shaun demonstrates his mettle by mounting a spirited if ineffective defense against the ghoulish horde. Director Edgar Wright elicits lots of laughs by exploiting zombie lore to create farcical situations. For example, he has Shaun and Ed defend themselves against approaching zombies by flinging vintage record albums at their heads. (Everyone knows that’s a zombie’s most vulnerable spot.) And since the shuffling ex-cadavers move so sluggishly, the pals have just enough time to debate a record’s merits before deciding whether to fling it. But Shaun isn’t an Airplane-like spoof: Instead of parading an endless series of gags, it mixes mirth and mayhem cleverly, generating real suspense and even some pathos. The gore effects, principally inserted for laughs, are well done and convincing enough to pass the gross-out test, and the performers manage the neat trick of being humorous while remaining in character; no need to lose one’s sense of humor just because one has been selected as the blue-plate special for a gaggle of gaping, flesh-eating zombies. Ed Hulse