Shaun of the Dead
directed by Edgar Wright
(Focus, 2004)

Shaun is determined to win back his girlfriend Liz, determined to expand his horizons beyond the corner pub, determined to stop mucking up. Shaun's so focused, in fact, that he's failing to notice the dead are coming back to life all around him.

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, the British film Shaun of the Dead is a tribute to, and a spoof of, all those zombie flicks that, as a rule, must have the words "Dead" or "Blood" or "Waking" in them. Serious horror film fans may hate this one. But its wit, its good acting and its tongue-in-cheek, cheeky attitude may help it worm its way into your heart.

Much of that success, as well as a lot of the sly good humor of Shaun, is thanks to Shaun himself, Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the movie. And he's amply helped by his slovenly lug-on-the-couch best friend, Ed (Nick Frost). A gaming and beer nuts aficianado, Ed is all id.

The gist is this: Shaun's tendency to dream big but never act on his dreams has finally alienated his long-suffering girlfriend, Liz, who has spent approximately, well, every night since they began dating within the confines of The Winchester, Shaun and Ed's favorite pub. He's trapped at his job, managing employees who are young and defiant. He's not eager to spend time with his Mum, thanks to a stepfather he abhors.

And he's getting on the nerves of the third roommate, the much more ambitious Pete (Peter Serafinowicz, the voice of Darth Maul, in just one of many references to Star Wars and other cult movies).

A botched dinner date leads Liz to dump Shaun. He's so despondent, even after Ed's beery cheer-up attempts, that he doesn't notice the newscast reports of a space probe crash (Thank you, Night of the Living Dead), nor does he notice the bloodstains in the corner Indian grocery or the catatonic people roaming the streets in ever-increasing numbers.

But, soon, even the obtuse Ed and the grieving Shaun notice something is amiss. The garden intruder with milky, dead eyes who attacks and tries to devour them finally drives the point home.

And here's the strength of Shaun: When impaling the flesh-eating intruder doesn't work, when tossing kitchen implements at her fails to (literally) make a dent, Shaun and Ed, in desperation, begin to wing albums from Shaun's collection at her.

This gives you two clues about Shaun: First off, how many people even own albums anymore? And, second, in the middle of the zombie attack, Ed and Shaun are reduced to a musicology debate: Which albums are too precious to waste in the battle to save their own lives? Sade? Mark Knopfler? Prince?

Soon, Ed and Shaun are off on a mission to save Shaun's mother and Liz and to seek safety in the safest place they know: The Winchester. Along the way, they also get saddled with Shaun's stepdad (the wonderful Bill Nighy), and Liz's snotty roommates, Dianne and David. Wielding anything they can use to smack the living dead in the head -- the only thing that will slow them down -- they prepare for a standoff at the pub.

They also employ deceit: with actress Dianne's help, they imitate the zombies that now surround them: "Vacant, with a hint of sadness," earnest Dianne coaches them. "Like a drunk who's lost a bet."

The rest of Shaun is a mix of romance, comedy and blood and guts ... "romcomzom," fans call it.

Not everyone will survive the long night of the living dead, but not to fear. Shaun will end on a happy note, tongue still firmly in check, and will teach us a thing or two about zombies in the process.

One, a zombie who can't be rehabilitated still makes a great video game buddy, as long as he's kept chained in the shed. And, two: You always, always need to remember to keep the front door locked.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 26 March 2005

Buy it from