Clearly in adoration of the George A. Romero zombie films, Shaun of the Dead is a playful spoof of the slow walking undead. The late 20-something human characters in the film are so self-centered and lazy that they hardly notice the flesh-eating zombies that infiltrate their section of North London. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is hung up on his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who has become increasingly disenfranchised with his lack of responsibility. He’s also stuck in a weird long-term friendship with his roommate and best friend Ed (Nick Frost), a slob slacker who sits on the couch all day playing video games. When the zombies start laying siege upon Shaun’s home, he has to learn how to be a grown-up and take charge of his life. That entails grabbing a racquet club and going into a Peter Jackson-style gore frenzy, smashing in zombie skulls and gutting out entrails. Writer-director Edgar Wright and co-screenwriter Pegg treat this blood-fest as a middlebrow sitcom. A goofy supporting cast of survivors includes Liz’s snobby roommates, Shaun’s stepdad (Bill Nighy), and his well-intentioned mum (Penelope Wilton). Though the filmmakers are capable of staging home invasion sequences, they lack the visual wit of Jackson’s Dead/Alive or Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. They pull no punches when it comes to splatter, but constantly dilute it by having the characters offer cheeky one-liners or, in effect, wink at the audience. When the humans attempt to wander through the town pretending to be zombies, shuffling their feet and moaning, the scene contradicts the Dead world so completely that fans are sure to throw up their hands in frustration. The constant stream of in-jokes (referencing characters and situations from Romero, as well as a jab at 28 Days Later) quickly grows tiresome. Shaun of the Dead is a mixed bag: outstanding scare set pieces like having the heroes trapped in the backseat of their car because the stepfather has refused to take off the childproof locks, followed by goofball “who’s on first” antics by the bickering leads. Simultaneously evoking the films of Romero, Mel Brooks, and Ben Stiller, the amusing but inconsistent Shaun of the Dead is a marriage made in hell.
- Edgar Wright
- Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
- Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Nicola Cunningham, Peter Serafinowicz, Bill Nighy
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