Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Edgar Wright

A return to the Horror/Sci-Fi chapter of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book brings me to Night of the Living Dead. Having previously written about it, I moved onto the recommendations. The only film I hadn’t written about before is now up, and any chance to rewatch this movie, I take. Because I love Shaun of the Dead.

Written by Simon Pegg, who stars as Shaun, and director Edgar Wright, the film is a perfect balance of horror comedy as lovable losers and best of friends Shaun and Ed (Nick Frost) find themselves in the midst of a zombie attack. And all Shaun can think about is making sure his girfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) is safe, though she wants nothing to do with him at the moment.

Combining the best of Brit humour with every zombie trope in the book, this film is endlessly quotable, and has a fantastic supporting cast, including Lucy Davis, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton. Filled with whip-smart dialogue, great visual gags, fantastic comic beats and genuine scares this one is very much one of my all time favourites. 

The story works because the characters are well-realised, and consequently the humour springs from a real place. Simon has problems with his stepfather Phillip (Nighy), his job, his friends, and trying to make things right with Liz. And all of that is played out against a zombie siege. 

For some reason it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still laugh each time. It’s just a well-crafted film, it knows how to walk the line of horror comedy with a little bit of romance thrown in. Of course, in these types of films, i.e. the zombie genre, not everyone is going to get out of the picture alive, and each time we lose one of the group, it resonates rather poignantly.

The film sticks with the shambling form of zombie, and consequently our heroes can avoid a lot of attacks, but once the numbers mass, it proves to be tricky, but in a hysterical sequence they are able to sneak by. In fact, there are no moments in this film that don’t work, and the film does a nice update of the zombie movie, something that tends to get revitalised on a fairly regular basis.

The film is tightly paced, and with Wright’s frenetic style it rockets along, and the movie’s characters are not only relatable, you may recognise yourself and/or your friends. Filled with nods to pop culture with line lifts from classic films, overt and not so overt references to movies and music, this may be one of the best zombie films of all time. And that is saying something considering how inundated the genre is.

This was the first film in Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, followed by Hot Fuzz and World’s End, and it just makes you want to see Pegg, Frost and Wright work together again. Like soon.

Until then, I’ll just have to make my way through the trilogy again… how’s that for a slice of fried gold?

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