Shaun of the Dead
Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Reece Shearsmith, Tamsin Greig, Julia Deakin, Matt Lucas
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Ever since George Romero first brought zombies into a modern context, countless writers and directors have attempted to explore the concept from differing angles. Comedies are numerous, but few are as satisfying as the first film in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead.
Set in Crouch End, London, two slackers (Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) find themselves surrounded by zombies as an apocalyptic event emerges around them. Unaware of what’s going on until they are nearly killed in their own backyard, the pair go on a dizzying cross-city adventure attempting to rescue girlfriends, parents, and more as they ultimately find themselves trapped in their favorite pub with limited options and zombies at every entrance.
Pegg as Shaun and Frost as Ed perfected their dimwitted layabout lifestyle performances throughout the course of Wright’s trilogy, but here they establish their personas with satisfying, self-deprecating humor. They are supported by a strong supporting cast that includes notable actors Penelope Wilton as Shaun’s mother and Bill Nighty as his stepfather alongside lesser-known actors Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Jessica Stevenson, and Peter Serafinowicz with familiar actors Rafe Spall and Martin Freeman in smaller parts.
Wright’s screenplay acknowledges zombie cinema’s past while giving audiences a fresh take on the genre, sticking with the shambling movement and bite transitioning, but poking fun at the would-be heroes that often emerge in such stories by making them easily confused, and awkwardly effective. His directorial style keeps the pace moving with well timed humor and countless sight gags that demand the audience’s entire attention.
Shaun of the Dead isn’t as outlandish as a lot of British comedies can be, which gives the film a solid foundation on which to build a multi-national fanbase. There are elements of the film that could have been better played for laughs, but one cannot complain too much about the end result.
Whatever flaws exist are easy to ignore and forgive as viewers are shunted back and forth across a small section of London while frothing hordes of zombies menace and harass a public clearly unprepared for their assault. The origin of the zombie infection is never explored, which requires the audience to build a suppositional foundation for their entertainment.
Whether or not Shaun of the Dead requires extra mental effort to fill in the gaps or exists purely as a vessel of hilarity, the culmination of parts is precisely what the audience should want, a humorous and engaging tour de farce.
July 7, 2020