Shaun Of The Dead

It’s not that flat – mates Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) are clueless. They are. You just can’t blame them for not noticing their neighborhood has been overrun with zombies. As Shaun of the Dead begins, it’s difficult to tell the living from the living dead. We watch as people trudge through their everyday lives, so systematically beaten down they look and walk like zombies.

Irreverent, sly, and affectionately connected to its source material, Shaun of the Dead is a love story with bite. The gory story is grounded by a good natured sense of humor and a real desire to make a horror film that goes against the grain. Splatter fans will appreciate the rip and shred effects, but at the heart of the film is a love story.

Pegg is the perfect anti-hero, a man child who shares a flat with two school chums, one a responsible albeit anal-retentive gatherer and harvester; and Ed, a slob who plays video games all day. Ed gets by doing miscellaneous jobs, while Shaun feels out of place as the senior sales manager at an electronics store. When they’re not getting by, they’re getting drunk at the Winchester Pub.

It’s there that Shaun decides to move forward on his relationship with Liz (Kate Ashfield), a woman tired of his empty promises. Their future hangs on an important dinner date that Shaun naturally forgets. Shaun is so distracted over the break-up he doesn’t realize the severity of another problem: the city is being overrun with the living dead.

Shaun and Ed’s clueless behavior is good for several laughs: they mock a zombie on the street, believing he’s drunk, and a female zombie who winds up in their backyard. Once Shaun and Ed are up to speed, they become reluctant zombie fighters, roaming the city to save the people they love. That includes Shaun’s mother and stepfather, who doesn’t believe that a little bite could lead to anything serious.

By design, we’re not supposed to take any of Shaun of the Dead seriously. Indeed, characters are put in situations of grave danger, but the set-ups and pay-offs are so rich in black humor that we find ourselves engaged in the film’s excesses rather than turning away.

What elevates the film is its sense of purpose. The filmmakers aren’t just content with stocking the story with nameless and faceless zombie happy meals, they give the characters and thus the story a support system that can withstand anything they throw at it. Most horror films attempt to break the ice with nervous laughter, but Shaun of the Dead celebrates its silliness.

The film is decidedly British, and American audiences might have difficulty discerning some of the dialects and phraseology. The situations and jokes are universal, especially when the character’s survival skills kick in. Shaun and Ed may not be great warriors, but they’re great entertainment.

Director/co-writer Edgar Wright and star/co-writer Pegg take their cue from the works of Dario Argento and George Romero, and even Danny Boyle’s recent 28 Days Later. The references should delight fans of zombie films, who will immediately recognize the homages. The performances are perfectly suited to the misfit nature of the story, with Pegg and Frost the biggest misfits in the bunch.

Hey Dude, Where’s My Girlfriend?

Clueless meet the living dead in Shaun


Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Nicola Cunningham. Directed by Edgar Wright. Rated R. 99 Minutes.


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