Shaun of the Dead (***)

Posted on September 2nd, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Shaun and Ed are flatmates in London. They have been best friends since primary school. Shaun has a brain-numbing job as a salesman in an electronics store, and Ed pretty much just sits around the house playing video games and not taking phone messages. They have a third flatmate, Peter, who is an officious prig who harangues Shaun about the fact that his friendship with Ed is holding him back in the world.

Shaun and Ed spend most evenings down at the Winchester pub, which is a sort of long-standing, dingy neighborhood watering hole. Shaun drags his upwardly mobile girlfriend there each evening, too, much to her dismay. Shaun and Ed spend each day in a semi-drunken, stuporous torpor, going about their soul-sapping, lower-middle-class lives as numbly as possible.

However, one effect of their self-induced sensory deprivation is that they fail to notice that their neighborhood (and all of London, based on the snippets of news shows we see as they channel-surf past them without absorbing content) is slowly transforming from one filled with zombie-like worker bees to one filled with zombies. The zombies move slowly, and so don’t really catch their attention, such as during Shaun’s daily walk down to the local convenience store for beverages. During his first trip we see his route, and the people along it, all going about their dull, pointless lives in a trancelike haze. During subsequent trips, the camera clearly shows that more and more of his neighbors have stopped being zombie-like and started being zombies, but Shaun is too self-medicated, self-absorbed, and closed off from reality to take any notice.

That sets the stage for Shaun of the Dead, which is being (accurately) characterized as a zom/rom/com (zombie romantic comedy). Shaun and Ed end up leading a plucky band of survivors against the ever-growing zombie population, and as with all zombie flicks, some survive and some die. But, unlike most its zombie-film predecessors, Shaun of the Dead is first and foremost a comedy, and a very funny one at that.

To set expectations, this isn’t an Airplane-like spoof, but a comedy that happens to be set in London during an outbreak of zombie-ism. As played by Simon Pegg, Shaun is a loveable loser with surprising resourcefulness when the chips are down. Ed, played by Nick Frost, sails serenely through their fight for survival with equanimity, courage, and a bit of wind. The rest of the cast plays their parts well, with most of the characters balanced on the precipice of caricature, but just real enough to keep the movie enjoyable.

The movie is laugh-out-loud funny, and the zombie portions are sufficiently scary and gory, although this is not a gore-fest. It is a zom/rom/com, and doles out all three with equal measures of screen time and skill. Well worth the price of admission.

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