Shaun of the Dead

written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

directed by Edgar Wright

starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Lucy Davis


review by Stephen Notley

Poor Shaun. See, it's his girlfriend Liz. She's not happy with the same old people, doing the same old things, coming to the same old rubbish pub every bloody night. Not only that, but Shaun keeps catching heat from people over his buddy Ed, a farting fat bastard who sits around the house all day playing video games and whose idea of friendliness is "Can I get any of you cunts a drink?" And not only that, but there's zombies.

One of the early cool things about Shaun of the Dead, a pretty cool movie with lots of cool things in it, is that the zombies take a while to really sink in. This isn't a goofy parody of zombie movies, and the scenario is basic zombie, with classic head-vulnerable slow zoms gradually taking over an urban area. And yet the film has a slyly comic point of view. Shaun's pretty wrapped up in his own stuff, even more so when Liz dumps him, so you can hardly blame him for wandering around in a daze and not noticing the curiously stiff folks shuffling about in greater and greater numbers.

Eventually the zombieness of the situation becomes obvious to Shaun and Ed whereupon the second cool thing about this movie kicks in, the very English "Oh bloody hell what's *this* then?" attitude that takes over, grabbing cricket bats and shovels to bash in squidgy groaning heads before setting out to pick up Mum and grab Liz and head over to the pub for a pint and to hole up against the zombies. It's a fairly simple twist on the zombie plot; rather than throwing a bunch of people who don't know each other into some siege situation where they're surrounded by zombies, instead just have a few people who *do* know each other run around zombie city trying to stay alive. Gives the story a little more life, y'know, a little more pep.

Director Edgar Wright (working from a script he wrote with Simon Pegg, who plays Shaun) has a lot of imagination, never going overboard for a gag but pulling humor out of every situation, like when the boys are firing vinyl LPs at zombies, arguing over which ones to throw. He's also got some fancier tricks up his sleeve, some Darren Aronovsky Requiem for a Dream-style accelerated blips, taps-water-hands-wash-drink-slam!-kinda bits, as well as a nice long tracking shot following Shaun through the neighborhood that gets repeated a day later filled with telling zombie hints Shaun's too oblivious to notice.

The cast is great, even though we've never heard of any of them with the possible exception of Liz's friend Dianne played by Lucy Davis, Dawn from BBC's The Office. Nick Frost as Ed recalls the kind of garrulous fat buddy usually played by Mark Addy, the fat buddy from The Full Monty and A Knight's Tale. Sure, he stinks and he's lazy but he's a good guy to have around during a zombie infestation. Bill Nighy (the only good thing in werewolves-v-vamps flick Underworld) gauntly plays Phil, Shaun's unloved walking corpse of a stepdad. And of course co-writer Simon Pegg rules as Shaun, barely scruffy, perplexed and soldiering on through a townful of zombies.

It's amazing how much demand there is for zombie movies. Dawn of the Dead 2003, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Shaun of the Dead -- they just keep coming, erupting out of filmmaker after filmmaker, little pocket universes of walking corpses on which each artist can stamp their own ideas. Thankfully, Shaun of the Dead is one of the good zombie movies, one that uses the zombie idea to tell a fresh story. If any of you out there made the unlikely mistake of seeing Resident Evil: Apocalypse, don't despair. That unpleasant taste can be washed away with a quick viewing of Shaun of the Dead. See it.

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