Shaun of the Dead – UK, 2004

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‘A romantic comedy. With zombies.’

Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 British zombie comedy horror film — hence marketed as a “zom com” — directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, and co-written and starring Simon Pegg alongside Nick Frost (Slaughterhouse Rulez). Stuart Conran (Cockneys vs Zombies; Waxwork; Hellraiser) provided the special effects makeup.

Pegg plays Shaun, a young man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with his girlfriend, his mother and stepfather. At the same time, he has to cope with an apocalyptic uprising of zombies.

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Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a sales manager whose life has no direction. His younger colleagues show him no respect, he has a rocky relationship with his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy), and a tense relationship with his housemate, Pete (Serafinowicz), because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s crude best friend who lives on their couch and deals marijuana.

Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Liz (Ashfield), is dissatisfied with their social life, as it consists primarily of spending every evening at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favourite pub. They never do anything alone together – Shaun always brings Ed, and Liz brings her flatmates, David (Moran) and Dianne (Davis).

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After a miserable day at work, Shaun meets an old friend, Yvonne (Stevenson), who asks him what he and Liz are doing for their anniversary, which makes him realise he forgot to book a table at a restaurant, as he had promised to do. Faced with this, Liz breaks up with him. Shaun drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester.

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The two return home late and spin electro records, only to have Pete confront them, who is suffering a headache after being mugged and bitten by “some crackheads”. Pete berates Shaun and tells him to sort his life out. Shaun resolves to do so.

The next morning, an uprising of zombies has overwhelmed the area, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his problems and too hungover to notice. He and Ed become aware of what is happening after watching reports on TV, as zombies attack their house…

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Reviews:

“Fans consider it an expert goof on zombie movies, but don’t tell that to director Edgar Wright: “Our funny characters were inhabiting a pretty bleak and scary situation,” he’s claimed. “I hope it works as a companion film to the Romero trilogy, rather than a spoof.” Mission accomplished: Shaun brilliantly merges horror and comedy in a way that makes the scares exponentially more cutting.” Tim Grierson, Rolling Stone

“Great horror movies comment on the world. Great comedies do likewise. Both genre exaggerate — only slightly — to explore the human condition, and when they are of a time and a place, to hold a mirror up to that world. Shaun of the Dead works brilliantly on every level and achieves everything it sets out to do, making it not only one of the best British horror films ever made but one of the best British comedies of all time to.” M.J. Simpson, Urban Terrors: New British Horror Cinema 1998 – 2007

Urban Terrors New British Horror Cinema M.J. Simpson. Hemlock Film Book

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” …a comedy that is genuinely funny, a human drama with sincere warmth, horror set-pieces that titillte in all the right ways, nodding back to the forefathers in homage rather than pastiche. It’s also a very British film in its celebration of working classes, gutter-up ideals and stoic optimism.” Staurt Willis, The New Flesh: 21st Century Horror Films A-Z

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“Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s clever, agile zombie comedy is probably the funniest of the decade (other strong contenders include American Zombie and Zombie Dearest, both 2007), while trafficking in perfectly respectable zombies on top.” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia: 2000 – 2010

“A superb blend of uniquely British comedy sensibilities with a Romero-esque zombie outbreak, Shaun of the Dead is a delight because it takes its subject matter seriously. The undead are never played for laughs; the humour arises instead out of the realistic way in which Shaun and his friends react to the way their world has crumbled around them overnight.” Dr. Arnold T Blumberg, Andrew Hershberger, Zombiemania: 80 Movies To Die For

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Choice dialogue:

Ed: “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!”

Ed: “We’re not using the zed word!”

Cast and characters:

  • Simon Pegg as Shaun
  • Nick Frost as Ed
  • Kate Ashfield as Liz
  • Lucy Davis as Dianne
  • Dylan Moran as David
  • Penelope Wilton as Barbara, Shaun’s mother
  • Bill Nighy as Philip, Shaun’s stepfather
  • Jessica Stevenson as Yvonne
  • Peter Serafinowicz as Pete
  • Rafe Spall as Noel
  • Martin Freeman as Declan
  • Reece Shearsmith as Mark
  • Tamsin Greig as Maggie
  • Julia Deakin as Yvonne’s mum
  • Matt Lucas as Cousin Tom

Filming locations:

The film is set in various North London locations, such as Crouch End and Highgate, although the fictitious pub, The Winchester, where the film climaxes, is actually located in New Cross, South London.

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