Shaun of the Dead
Other // R // September 24, 2004
Review by Kim Morgan | posted September 23, 2004
Highly Recommended
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With Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the re-make of Dawn of the Dead and Danny Boyle's critically embraced 28 Days Later, zombies, it would appear, are all the rage. The newest entry into this slow moving (or fast—thanks to Boyle) genre is the funny, charming and oddly inspiring British ode to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead —a film that bears the distinction of managing to meld 29-year old slacker angst with British complacency and cultural dissipation with well...killing legions of brain munching zombies.

Our titular hero is Shaun (Simon Pegg) a guy on the verge of 30 who still works at an appliance store and can't let go of his couch sleeping, mouth breathing, un-employed roommate Ed (Nick Frost). Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) has grown tired of her boyfriend's uninspired, irresponsible life—taking the more-than-strong-clue from her roommates who detest Shaun to dump the guy. After failing on a dinner reservation and handing over flowers meant for his mother, Liz ditches Shaun, who promptly gets smashed with Ed at their favorite watering hole, The Winchester.

But with the power to create both apocalyptic horror and necessary life changing incentive, London is suddenly overrun with zombies. Though clues have been popping since film open, the next day holds surprises—but not right away. In the film's finest moment, Shaun sleepily walks to the corner store for a Diet Coke—the camera follows his near catatonic stroll as he walks past smashed car windows, slow moving walking corpses, slips on blood and leaves change at the un-tended store register. Still walking home, a zombie approaches—Shaun snaps: "No I haven't got any change." Shot in a single take, this moment is so perfect you feel badly holding the rest of the film against it—but it lays out EXACTLY the film's telling joke—really, would anyone notice if people were zombies? Especially on a hung over Monday morning?

Soon, however, Shaun discovers that, no, that girl in his back yard is not drunk (another funny moment with Ed), she's a flesh eater. Learning that the only way to kill these creatures is to smash them in the head, Shaun and Ed flip through Shaun's record collection choosing Dire Straights, Sade and The Batman Soundtrack as appropriate choices to hurl at the walking dead.

And as directed by Edgar Wright and co-written with actor Pegg— the joke continues. Rather than stay holed up in his flat, Shaun fears the safety of his sweet, very British mother (Penelope Wilton) and ex girlfriend, grabbing his cricket bat to rescue his loved ones while warding off zombies. Even his smug stepfather (the hilarious Bill Nighy) must be saved, as much as Shaun wants to leave the guy (particularly since he's been bitten, which Shaun will have to take care of it but we won't ruin here).

So with Ed, Mom, Liz and Liz's roommates, Shaun figures the Winchester the best place to ward off the undead. The movie slags just a bit during this time, but is redeemed by some genuine emotion for his I-don't-want-to-be-a-bother mother ("They got a little bitey") and the best use of a Queen song since Wayne's World. Here it's "Don't Stop Me Now" played in tune to the character's smashing zombie noggin with such bloody gusto that it sums up the horror/ motivation of Shaun of the Dead beautifully. As Freddy Mercury wails: "I feel alive and the world....turning inside out...Don't Stop me now, I'm having such a good time! I'm having a ball!" we're cheered in that human bonding way that Queen provides in surplus. And if that's not enough, the movie ENDS with more Queen— "You're My Best Friend" which in a sweet, morbid manner makes this whole zombie comedy (sniff) downright touching. Layers of meaning are certainly added to the lyrics: "Oooh you make me live."

Read More Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun

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