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 and his best pal Ed to save their friends and
family from becoming the next entree.
"Would anyone like... a peanut?"
I had Shaun of
the Dead pegged as one of those straight-to-video movies that pops
up every once in a while, featuring a clever lampooning of something popular
in movies at the time. In the wake of a spectacular remake of Dawn of
the Dead, it was not hard to come to this conclusion. But not only
is Shaun of the Dead more than a straight-to-video sideshow hoping
for a few minutes of attention, it's a tremendous installment in the horror
genre that shows that romantic subplots can indeed have a place in scary
movies. What is truly amazing is that Jerry Bruckheimer can screw up romantic
subplots in movies that seem to demand romance, and yet Director Edgar
Wright is able to make it work in a gory zombie movie. This is outstanding!
The best parts
of the movie are the gradual evolution from a romantic comedy and into
a horror film that takes place over the first third or so. The movie opens
in a serious conversation between Shaun and his amazingly beautiful and
adorable girlfriend Liz, in which they discuss how unhappy Liz is with
the way their relationship is going. They each complain about the other's
friends, all of whom are sitting right there listening. Shaun's inability
to find anything else to do other than hang out at the same pub, the Winchester,
and work at the same dead-end job have led to Liz issuing an ultimatum.
Change things, or she's outta here.
I love that
the movie is so effective both as a horror film and a romantic comedy,
while at the same time going significantly out of its way to make fun of
those two genres. My favorite is the way the sound is manipulated early
in the film. Horror films constantly manipulate sound to create scares
and tension (such as the Screeching Cat scare), and this movie makes fun
of that tactic, giving extreme close-ups and vastly amplified sound for
things like brushing teeth and spreading jam on toast.
As Shaun goes
through a typical day the day after his conversation with Liz, he notices
things here and there that seem out of the ordinary, like lines of massive
military vehicles rushing past his workplace, a man obviously terrified
running past him at full speed, and a staggering man across the street
who picks up a pigeon with the intention of eating it. If you think about
it, most of the more well-known zombie movies start out in the middle of
the crisis. They don't take the time to show normal society, they just
start out focusing on a small group of people, the last survivors in what
is by now an almost complete decimation of the human race, which has consumed
itself, you might say. Here, everything is normal, and the movie takes
the time to show what it might be like for the average person if the walking
dead started eating people and turning them into walking dead as well.
There are frantic
news reports that offer vague theories as to what is causing 'the crisis,'
but like the military vehicles and other strange things that Shaun noticed,
he always gets distracted before he catches on to what is going on, which
allows room for some of the most memorable scenes in the movie, like when
Shaun and his best friend Ed, one of Liz's major complaints, leave the
Winchester that night, pleasantly intoxicated.
In the morning,
Shaun wakes up and walks across the street to the corner store, like he
does every day, and doesn't notice the chaos that has erupted overnight.
When he gets back, there is a hilarious scene where he and Shaun find a
zombie stuck in their backyard, apparently unaware of where she is or where
to go. This is a perfect example of where the movie most sharply departs
from the traditional zombie movie. Shaun and Ed don't react like actors
in a gore movie, they react like normal people would in such a situation.
When the zombie girl turns around, they look at her shocked, and then laugh
at how drunk she must be. When she falls and suffers a significant injury,
only to get right back up, the looks on Shaun's and Ed's faces are absolutely
From this point,
the movie turns into the more traditional horror film, but it maintains
its originality and romantic comedy portion by stopping occasionally to
remind you that the other plot has not been forgotten. There are times
throughout the movie where the characters are surrounded by zombies and
stop completely to argue about their personal differences. At one point,
they are literally surrounded by hundreds of zombies only a few feet away,
and Ed stops to sit casually on a nearby bench and talk to someone on his
cell-phone. Shaun smacks it out of his hand and essentially tells him that
that's exactly the problem with him.
I think that
where Shaun of the Dead is most successful is in the blending of
these two seemingly incompatible story lines. A lesser movie would have
tried to mix together a romantic comedy and a horror movie and ended up
screwing them both up, trying to please everyone and ultimately pleasing
no one. Shaun of the Dead, however, tried to please everyone and
succeeds because it doesn't disenfranchise anyone. It doesn't start as
a romantic comedy, then turn into a horror movie that solves the romantic
comedy because Liz fell back in love with Shaun, who in the course of the
horror portion had become a hero. That's how you screw up a movie with
a premise like this.
movie weaves this tapestry of horror and romantic comedy, each infiltrating
and playing off of the other, becoming in the process a success in both
areas and something truly unique. And even if it had done nothing but make
a zombie movie unique, it would have been a success, but there is so much
more there. Don't miss this one.
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- Because of the timing and the indisputable similarity of the names, the
distributors were forced to hold the film back until two weeks after Dawn
of the Dead (2004) was released in the UK.
- Shaun works at Foree Electronics. Ken Foree was one of the stars of Dawn
of the Dead (1978).
of the Living Dead (1968) director George A. Romero was given a private
viewing of the film near his home in Florida. During the seen in which
Ed yells into the phone, "We're coming to get you, Barbara," Romero was
oblivious to the fact it was a direct lift from his film Night of the
Living Dead (1968) and only found out later after a phone conversation
with director Edgar Wright.
- According to writer/director Edgar Wright in the DVD commentary,
when Ed attempts to cheer Shaun up at the Winchester with plans of binge
drinking, he is actually summarizing the events of the next day ("Z-day")
entirely in drinking references.
- During the company logos at the beginning of the film, a selection of the
library music played during the airport scene of Dawn of the Dead (1978) can be heard.
- When the soldiers burst in to save Shaun and Liz, the logo on the truck
says "Biohazard". This is the Japanese name for the popular console game, Resident
- The game that Ed is playing throughout the movie is Timesplitters 2.
the end of the film, as Shaun flicks through TV channels, a voice can be
heard saying that claims that the epidemic was due to rage infected monkeys
have now been dismissed as b.. Liz turns off before the voice can finish
the sentence. The voice is referencing 28 Days Later, another British
- All of the newsreaders and television presenters are real people portraying
- When flicking through the Yellow Pages, Shaun finds the number for the
restaurant that does all the fish. It's called Fulci's Restaurant - a reference
to Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.
- Nick Frost (Ed) allegedly kept his genitals shaved throughout the production
to create a genuine need to scratch that the character demanded.
- The TV news reports Shaun and Ed watch feature an anchorman who utters
the exact same phrases as the TV reporter in Night of the Living Dead (1968).
- When Shaun comes into work, one of his co-workers mentions something about
someone named Ash calling out from work. Ash is the name of Bruce Campbell's
character in The Evil Dead trilogy.
- The pizza company that is seen on and off throughout the film
(take-away place next to the corner shop, the pizza box sitting in the
lounge and the various delivery men) is called Bub's Pizzas, a reference
to Day of the Dead (1985) and the smarter-than-average zombie, Bub.
- The word "fuck" is used 77 times in this movie.
- When Shaun walks to the shops before heading to work when everything
is normal, Shaun passes a road sweeper, on his radio you can hear a news
bulletin detailing how a space probe called 'Omega 6' entered Earth's atmosphere
several days early over the South West of England and broke apart over
a well-built area. This a direct link to Night of the Living Dead (1968),
in which a space probe breaks up over a small town in America and the resulting
radiation causes the dead in the local grave yard to come to life.
- George A. Romero, creator of the films that this movie lampoons,
was so impressed with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's work that he asked
them to appear in Land of the Dead, the fourth part of his "Dead"
series, possibly in cameos as zombies.
- On their way to the pub, Shaun's mother falls behind. While they
hear her scream, Shaun runs and jumps over the garden fence by bouncing
off of a trampoline. The same exact shot can be seen at the end of Army
of Darkness, where Ash battles the witch while bouncing on trampolines
in the S-Mart shop.
- When Shaun and Ed are flipping through the TV stations, not paying
any attention at all to the news men and the important living dead problem
at hand, one of the men on TV calls them "deadites". This is in homage
to the Evil Dead series.