Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old, dead-end-job clerk who drowns his boredom in beer every night while his frustrated girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), watches on in disgust. When Liz breaks up with him, Shaun and his slob friend Ed (Nick Frost) go on a bender to soften the blow. When they awaken the next morning, the duo learns that England is in the middle of a zombie outbreak, with panic spreading through the land and the media. Finally receiving some much needed life motivation, Shaun and Ed fight their way through town (with cricket bats and record albums) to save Liz, her friends, and Shaun's parents, eventually seeking shelter in the local pub to ride out the zombie massacre.
Opening with a musical stinger taken from George Romero's 1979 classic, "Dawn of the Dead," "Shaun of the Dead" (IMDb listing) pronounces itself within seconds as a film geek's dream come true. Combining a love for the cinema of the undead with the brisk, biting sensibilities of English humor, "Shaun" is a delightful romp through bloody entrails and pints of beer.
After surviving through a disrespectful remake of "Dead" this past spring, "Shaun's" friendly mix of comedy and horror is a welcome sight. "Shaun" is about taking a brand name and presenting it with respect and admiration, all the while riffing joyfully on the elements that make the material so much fun. In fact, "Shaun" is almost an answer to Danny Boyle's dreary "28 Days Later," (which gets a nice dig at the end of the film) returning zombies to their rightful movements (slow and stalking, not Olympic runners), and keeping the outbreak of the undead largely undetermined, not due to a "rage" infection. "Shaun" doesn't explain much, to be honest, instead setting up its lovely, detailed characters, the zombies (which Shaun asks everybody not to call them), and letting the craziness play out, whether it be in comedy or horror.
The film was created by star/writer Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright, formerly of the hipster BBC show, "Spaced." Pegg and Wright know exactly what they want out of "Shaun," and pursue every last fanboy wish to their heart's content. "Shaun" has almost everything a horror geek could want, including references to other genre classics, a cast that has complete faith in the filmmaking and resists turning the picture into a spoof, and two exquisite uses of Queen songs that bring down the house. And for what is essentially a comedy, "Shaun" doesn't turn away from graphic violence, with a gruesome, "Day of the Dead" style massacre of a human character by the zombies for the finale. Of course, this does provide some odd tonality problems in the third act, but "Shaun" recovers quickly for a hilarious climax.
With zombie films all the rage these days (Romero himself is back in action with next year's "Land of the Living Dead'), the sublime mix of love, comedy, and disemboweling in "Shaun" is a blast to observe. Pegg and Wright have managed to beat the experts at their own game.
Filmfodder Grade: A-