Zombie movies are all the rage these days: It seems the success of 28 Days Later sparked it, and fans are discovering and rediscovering the genre with new movies like the successful remake of Dawn of the Dead and the Ultimate DVD collection presenting the original 1878 undead classic. Now comes a British import, Shaun of the Dead, a comedy that treats the genre with absolute reverence while still managing to keep its tongue firmly in cheek.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play Shaun and Ed, two flat-mates who, without realizing it are, in a sense, zombies. Shaun is almost 30 and he’s stuck in the rut of middle management in a retail shop. His life is a constant cycle of getting up, going to work, going the same pub with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) after work, getting drunk, going home and passing out, then repeating the whole cycle all over again the next morning. Ed’s existence is even more lifeless, revolving solely around the sofa and video games. While Shaun and Ed may be a metaphors for the living dead, they soon discover that the real thing is a lot scarier. As the blank eyed, shambling, ravenous creatures overtake the neighborhood, Shaun and Ed gather up their closest friends and family and head for the supposed safety of their favorite pub.
Shaun of the Dead is one of the best big-screen surprises I’ve gotten all year. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the whole zombie thing… but in this movie they are so well, um, fleshed out you can’t help but love them. The main characters are totally realistic while managing to be absolutely, hysterically funny. It’s the realism and the relatable people that makes Shaun work so well, I think: It’s one of the few movies that successfully fires on all its cylinders, presenting side-splitting, playful laughs with head-splitting, gory horror. Director Edgar Wright has done a bloody good job of making a movie with something for everyone, without homogenizing it.
There are few fun insider tidbits in Shaun of the Dead. For example, Shaun works at Foree Electronics (Ken Foree was one of the stars of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead); the video game that Ed is playing throughout the movie is Timesplitters 2, which features dimension-dodging zombies; a newscast says that the undead epidemic was due to rage infected monkeys, just like in 28 Days Later; and couple of Queen songs are used to great effect, with lyrics that match the scene ("Ooh, you make me live…"). There are plenty more, plus a plethora for fans of Wright, Pegg and Frost’s cult TV series, Spaced (I’ve never seen Spaced but after Shaun of the Dead, I will definitely seek out more entertainment offerings from the talented trio).
At first it looked as though Shaun of the Dead would only be out in limited release Stateside (it’s already been a smash hit in the U.K.), but with all the positive buzz, it will now be "in theatres everywhere" on September 24. I’m glad to hear that it will have a better chance for big screen success, because Shaun of the Dead is by far one of the most entertaining horror movies (and comedies!) I’ve seen all year.
Review by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com