Shaun of the Dead (2004)
March 6, 2018 8:54 PM - Subscribe

A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.

NYTimes: There is something intrinsically ridiculous about zombie movies. No matter how scary they want to be, the spectacle of famished corpses lurching and groaning with their insatiable hunger for flesh and blood is worth at least a titter. The British horror comedy "Shaun of the Dead" skillfully plays off that ridiculousness by implying that Britain may already be populated with the living dead, metaphorically speaking.

Roger Ebert: "Shaun of the Dead," written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and directed by Wright, is a send-up of zombie movies, but in an unexpected way: Instead of focusing on the Undead and trying to get the laughs there, it treats the living characters as sitcom regulars whose conflicts and arguments keep getting interrupted by annoying flesh-eaters. In the first two or three scenes, as he crawls out of bed and plods down the street wrapped in the misery of his hangover, Shaun doesn't even notice the zombies. Sure, they're on the TV news, but who watches the news? For Shaun and Ed, the news functions primarily as reassurance that the set will be operating when the football match begins.

WaPo: The two funniest set pieces come early in the film, when Shaun and Ed try to decapitate a couple of encroaching ghouls with Shaun's record collection, and before that, when Shaun takes a bleary-eyed walk to his corner store on a Sunday morning, completely oblivious to the mayhem unfolding around him. That scene, played almost entirely in silence, is an especially adroit example of Wright's keen sense of physical comedy, wherein jokes are as often delivered in the background as in the foreground.

AV Club: A hybrid of stylish suspense and dry comedy, Shaun Of The Dead tries to do right by all its contributing elements and mostly succeeds. No laughing matter, the zombies come straight out of a George Romero film, lumbering along with a fearsome intensity. Wright directs with an expert sense of rhythm but never lays his technical finesse on with Guy Ritchie thickness; he lets his characters take center stage even after he's shown he can frame them through a gaping hole in a zombie's stomach. Shaun Of The Dead loses a bit of its charm in a finale played straight, but it still deserves credit for choosing to transcend spoof and become its own film.

Trailer

Streaming on Netflix

Shaun of the Dead: An oral history of the horror-comedy zombie classic

Shaun of the Dead is a near-perfect movie

This Visual Joke Hidden Throughout “Shaun Of The Dead” Will Sneak Up On You Like a Zombie

Filming locations

Shaun of the Dead Sequel Was Never A Real Thing, Says Simon Pegg
posted by MoonOrb (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over.
posted by nubs at 9:25 PM on March 6, 2018 [14 favorites]


Yeah, but Big Al says dogs can't look up!
posted by valkane at 3:20 AM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


I love the flip they created by having "hero" Shaun make the absolute worst decision by going to the pub. They sell the idea to each other and to the audience, but his old friend comes along and does all but explicity tell him the worst idea. She ends up making the right decision and saving all her people.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:26 AM on March 7, 2018 [6 favorites]


This is one of those movies that's a really good movie that a lot of people like for the wrong reason. Like, I'm pretty sure there's a large subset of its fans who don't get that Shaun is actually a giant idiot or that the pub thing was a bad plan, despite the fact that the movie hits the audience over the head with both of those things.

I wonder if The World's End is less popular than Shaun (despite covering some of the same ground, in that respect), because it was even less subtle about Pegg's character not being a hero worth emulation.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:37 AM on March 7, 2018 [9 favorites]


One of the things that I liked about this movie is that it takes the relatively daring position, for a zombie movie, that zombies wouldn't be that big of a deal in the long run. I mean, you could come up with a scenario probably involving fast zombies and a very fast-acting virus in which civilization would fall quickly, but your standard Romero-ripoff slow zombies wouldn't be that big of a deal, once you realize what will stop them. (Especially in America, with its awful gun obsession.) And the ending is, in its own way, pretty sweet.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


I love this movie because it achieves the feat of balancing hilarious comedy with a few genuine scares (at least for me--I'm a horror movie wuss) and a surprising amount of pathos. The bits that deal with the fates of Shaun's stepdad and his mum always gut me. Also, the sly, fast-moving visual jokes reward multiple viewings!
posted by merriment at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


One of the things that I liked about this movie is that it takes the relatively daring position, for a zombie movie, that zombies wouldn't be that big of a deal in the long run.

This is an issue that discussed at length here in the discussion of Fear the Walking Dead. The original Walking Dead, perhaps instinctively, did just the right thing by putting its protagonist in a coma and having him wake up to the apocalypse as a fait accompli. Fear the Walking Dead tried to show how it would actually happen and failed badly. (In that discussion, I argued that there was a way they could have fixed it, one which I think would have made it a much better show.) But they didn't adequately solve the basic problem which is, you just shoot them!

I absolutely adore Shaun of the Dead for so many reasons. This is just a minor one.
posted by Naberius at 8:43 AM on March 7, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think that's part of it for me tobascodagama. Shaun is a loser, but he's generally a pretty lovable loser. The World's End guy is more blatantly an awful person. I need to rewatch them all.

The opening that Ebert mentions is just so perfect, with subtle outbreak references to full on accidents and brain eating going on in the background and Shaun doesn't notice a damn thing. It's great.
posted by graventy at 8:44 AM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wonder if The World's End is less popular than Shaun (despite covering some of the same ground, in that respect), because it was even less subtle about Pegg's character not being a hero worth emulation.

I think the Cornetto trilogy is interesting for creating three different characters for Pegg, each of which is deeply flawed in its own way. Shaun is truly of the dead; he is a zombie, sleepwalking through life, who manages to escape the zombie apocalypse; Lt. Angel is an overachieving, overbearing, uptight stick in the mud who has no real friends; and Gary King is a suicidal addict looking to relive past glory one last time before ending it all.

Angel is the one who has the most arc out of all of them; he actually changes over the course of the film, as he becomes friends with Danny...Shaun wakes up from his zombiehood to some degree, but not too much as we see when he slips out to the garden shed...and Gary - well, Gary isn't someone to emulate, but Gary isn't entirely wrong either in how he responds to the revelations about the state of the world (and, interestingly, the character arc is given more to Nick Frost in The World's End). Gary King doesn't change, even though the first act of the movie sets us up to expect that. I think I need to watch all three again and muse on this some more.

But they didn't adequately solve the basic problem which is, you just shoot them!

I personally liked how World War Z (the book) handled it - the creation of a heavy tool for the infantry to carry that was basically a shovel combined with an axe, along with idea of military tactics designed around infantry squares that have shooters in the middle and the edges can engage in hand to hand combat against massive, slow moving hordes.
posted by nubs at 8:59 AM on March 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


your standard Romero-ripoff slow zombies wouldn't be that big of a deal, once you realize what will stop them

Which is kind of funny, actually, because of course Night of the Living Dead suggests this with its ending, where the Good Old Boys drive around shooting zombies. Of course, the sequels also get around that to achieve an actual apocalypse by reminding us that every death, no matter the cause, creates a zombie. So it's a war of attrition that, by the start of Dawn of the Dead, the living have lost, because the social and government institutions (at least in the US, which is the only country Romero shows us) just aren't strong enough to handle it.

That was one of the things that Fear the Walking Dead actually did well, I thought, because it showed that the medical establishment was trying to accommodate the new state of affairs, even if they ultimately failed.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:00 AM on March 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


But anyway, yeah, slow-moving "viral" zombies -- as opposed to supernatural-ish ones like in Romero -- should be fairly easy to mop up, like they were in Shaun.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:01 AM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


Link to the other film of the Cornetto trilogy we've done on Fanfare: The World's End

(We need a Hot Fuzz post. I'll maybe try tonight. For the greater good.)

The greater good.
posted by nubs at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2018 [15 favorites]


Lt. Angel?

He isn't even from round here.
posted by biffa at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2018 [7 favorites]


This is one of those movies that's a really good movie that a lot of people like for the wrong reason.

Liking something for the wrong reason ? How gauche of people.
posted by Pendragon at 11:29 AM on March 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, if the point of something is "the main character is a bit of a prick" and then you have fans who unironically love him for his prickishness rather than in spite of it, yeah, that's pretty gauche. See also: Breaking Bad.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:51 AM on March 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


Or Scarface.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:55 AM on March 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


Or Mr. Rogers.
posted by maxsparber at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


(We need a Hot Fuzz post. I'll maybe try tonight. For the greater good.)

The greater good.


My wife and I are basically incapable of hearing or saying that phrase without immediately intoning it, Hot Fuzz style.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:15 PM on March 7, 2018 [8 favorites]


Gary King doesn't change, even though the first act of the movie sets us up to expect that.

Gary, improbably, is the agent of the world changing to one in which he can thrive, rather than changing in order to be able to thrive in the world. It's like the exact opposite of Nicholas Angel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is my second favorite movie. But it has my very favorite fight scene.
posted by Ruki at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


Gary, improbably, is the agent of the world changing to one in which he can thrive, rather than changing in order to be able to thrive in the world.

Good point, and I can't help but think that the world should change for Gary, King of the Humans.
posted by nubs at 2:32 PM on March 7, 2018


One of my favorite sight gags ever: When Shaun and his crew run into the other gang going in the opposite direction. A true classic even without the squee factor of Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig.
posted by whuppy at 7:26 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


One of my favorite sight gags ever: When Shaun and his crew run into the other gang going in the opposite direction

After doing some digging, that whole line up of the other gang is full of little gags & connections from British comedy:

-Simon Pegg & Jessica Hynes - played Tim & Daisy on Spaced;
-Lucy Davis (Dianne) & Martin Freeman - Dawn & Tim on The Office;
-Dylan Moran (David) & Tamisin Greig - Bernard & Fran on Black Books;
-Nick Frost & Julia Deakin - Mike and Marsha from Spaced.

Additionally, "Tyres" from Spaced shows up as a Zombie.

(And if you enjoyed this film and haven't seen Spaced, go do so now.)
posted by nubs at 8:08 AM on March 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


I love this movie because it achieves the feat of balancing hilarious comedy with a few genuine scares (at least for me--I'm a horror movie wuss) and a surprising amount of pathos. The bits that deal with the fates of Shaun's stepdad and his mum always gut me.

Me too! Shaun's relationship to his mother is one of the best parts of the movie, and his stepfather's line about having run his bite under a cold tap is one of the funniest bits.

(We need a Hot Fuzz post. I'll maybe try tonight. For the greater good.)

Yes, please!
posted by gladly at 8:35 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


Others in this line of undead British invasion oddness: Cockneys vs Zombies, Doghouse.
Apparently, this is a thing.
posted by TrishaU at 6:54 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


Has anyone seen Cockneys vs Zombies? I've always wondered whose side the viewer is supposed to be on.
posted by biffa at 7:14 AM on March 20, 2018


This video about Black Panther (CW: quotes from alt-right assholes as part of a take-down, also Black Panther spoilers) had me thinking about our discussion of Shaun's arc above. I think it's another good example of the "Scrooge" problem mentioned in the video -- Shaun at the end of the movie is very different from Shaun at the beginning, but Beginning Asshole Shaun is the more memorable version of the character.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:29 AM on March 20, 2018


I saw CvZ. It's got some moments, overall very forgettable but it didn't make me angry I spent the time on it the way, say, Spectral did.
posted by phearlez at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2018


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