Let’s get a couple of things clear right off of the bat here. I’m not a comedy person. I don’t know what it is, but they just don’t resonate with me very often. There’s a few exceptions to this rule, but not many. So let’s just get this out of the way — I’m not a huge fan of this movie. Just because it didn’t make me laugh though doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. In fact, Shaun of the Dead as a whole is actually really good!
If you haven’t heard of or seen the film, Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy tied up in a zombie story. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a total loser whose loyalty to his best friend, Ed (Nick Frost) is causing riffs in his relationships with everyone around him, particularly with his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), who wants more out of their relationship than nights at The Winchester for a pint playing pool with Ed. After Liz breaks up with Shaun, he resolves to proof he’s not the boring man she thinks he is but he’s going to have to do so in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
Right off the bat, I have to say that the story is put together really well. It’s not your typical zombie film but instead happens to be a love story with zombies as a backdrop. The zombies play an important part in the story as the physical antagonists, but also as thematic opponents. Isn’t it kind of poetic that this mundane, practically one of the living dead man has to defeat a horde of zombies to prove himself? You can see the similarities between Shaun and his monstrous counterparts throughout but especially at the beginning when it takes him a while to even notice that there are zombies walking around because everything just seems so normal to him. This, of course, also says a lot about the people around him and not just his own lifeless existence. It’s clever writing, really.
There’s some really fun sequences in the film, but my favorite is easily toward the end. The gang is all holed up inside The Winchester, finally, and the jukebox plays “Don’t Stop Me Now” and what follows is a fun sequence of everyone doing their best to fight back the zombies. There’s also their efforts at trying to blend in with the brain sucking pack that stands out from the rest. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg demonstrate such a great mastery of all forms of comedy. There’s witty banter, physical humor, situational humor, and visual humor throughout that’s bound to bring a smile to your face at least once.
Shaun of the Dead is aware just how clever it is too, but its well deserved for its execution as a film. It’s maybe not my favorite zombie film, but it’s earned its place as a cult comedy film. Unfortunately, for all its fun effects, interesting zombie design, and cleverness, I found myself wanting more from its characters. It was hard to dig in to the relationships and characters (especially Shaun) and root for them when I just couldn’t find very many things to care deeply about in any of them.
If you’re a fan of Edgar Wright and/or Simon Pegg already and haven’t gotten around to seeing this film then you definitely should. If you’re not a fan of the other films in this “trilogy” like Hot Fuzz or The World’s End then maybe skip this one. It’s at least interesting for a single viewing but maybe not one I’d repeat year to year. Once was enough for me I think but it’s nice to be able to say I’ve seen this one now.