Simon Pegg as Shaun
Kate Ashfield as Liz
Nick Frost as Ed
Lucy Davis as Dianne
Dylan Moran as David
Nicola Cunningham as Mary
Peter Serafinowicz as Pete
Bill Nighy as Philip
Penelope Wilton as Barbara
Jessica Stevenson as Yvonne
Arvind Doshi as Nelson
Rafe Spall as Noel
Sonnell Dadral as Danny
Samantha Day as Woman on Trisha
Trisha Goddard as Herself
Pity poor Shaun (Simon Pegg). He hates his job. His slacker roommate and best friend Ed (Nick Frost) is a bad influence. His girlfriend just broke up with him because her friends hate him. He doesn’t get along with his stepfather (Bill Nighy), and his mother is completely loopy. and then the zombies attack London.
Maybe that synopsis oversimplifies things, but if England isn’t already considered the perfect environment for a zombie movie after 28 Days Later, then this mix of comedy and horror from the guys behind the British show “Spaced” confirms it. Essentially, Shaun of the Dead is a television Britcom inexplicably caught in the middle of a zombie invasion. Despite the nonstop humor, this isn’t a mamby pamby watered down zombie movie, as the blood and gore are as plentiful as any of the Romero classics that inspired actor/writer Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright to make this British companion film.
The first twenty minutes introduce 29-year-old loser Shaun and his pathetic existence, working a boring job where none of his underlings respect him. Shaun would probably like nothing better than to hang around the flat with Ed playing Nintendo, if it weren’t for their stuffy roommate Peter. If things weren’t bad enough, Shaun’s girlfriend Liz has broken up with him at the behest of her best friends, because they think he’ll never change. Meanwhile, strange things are going on around him, but Shaun is so distracted by everything else that he doesn’t even notice. By the time the story kicks into full-on zombie mode, there has literally been a laugh a minute as Shaun can’t tell the difference between London’s every day zombies living their humdrum lives and the flesh-eating kind that seems to be taking over.
The comedy is driven by the chemistry between longtime friends and former real life roommates Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who create some of the best slacker routines since Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Watching them ineptly trying to fight zombies is pretty funny, but once the duo realizes that the zombie invasion is a real threat, necessity demands of Shaun to become the unlikeliest of heroes by rescuing Liz and his mother. Their initial rescue plan is pretty funny, but watching it quickly unravel is even funnier, because Shaun and Ed are about as bad at sticking to their plan as they are at fighting zombies. Still, Shaun is driven to succeed, knowing that’s the only way to achieve the potential that everyone around him seems to expect of him.
The entire movie is a lot of fun, not only because Pegg and Wright quite effectively pay loving homage to the zombie genre, but because instead of making laughs at the expense of the walking dead, they poke fun at the two clueless guys trying to deal with the problem. Although the zombies are the vintage slow variety, the movie is still very fast-paced and action-packed, and the only time it really falters is towards the end when things start getting more serious and the laughs are dropped for too many dramatic moments between the characters.
While Pegg and Frost are the best part of the movie, the other players each have their moments. The ensemble cast is mainly made of British television actors and personalities, filled in with “real actors” like Love Actually‘s Bill Nighy, who gives a low-key performance as Shaun’s almost zombie stepdad, and actress Penelope Wilton, who is very funny portraying Shaun’s loopy mom.
The Bottom Line:
If you can imagine the perfect combination of horror and comedy with more intelligence than Scary Movie, and with a decidedly British flavor, then you might go into Shaun of the Dead having some idea what’s in store for you. With so few revelations in the comedy field, one can only hope that the trio of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost continue to explore other genres, because they’ve managed to make not only the best zombie film since Romero’s earlier work, but also one of the funniest comedies in a long time.
Shaun of the Dead opens mostly nationwide this Friday.