The finest romantic zombie comedy (or rom-zom-com) ever to hit the big screen, 2004's 'Shaun of the Dead' worked on every level -- alternately hilarious, suspenseful, disgusting and kind of sweet. An obvious and loving homage to the George Romero oeuvre, 'Shaun' is more than just a clever parody, thanks to director Edgar Wright and co-writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It's a supremely British (i.e., dryly witty) lark with moments of genuine poignancy and a good soundtrack to boot.
Pegg and Frost, who later appeared together in Wright's similarly uproarious 'Hot Fuzz,' also co-wrote and star in Greg Mottola's sci-fi comedy 'Paul,' opening this Friday. A formidably funny duo, their characters' friendship is at the heart of 'Shaun.'
The film has a classic rom-com setup. Shaun (Pegg) is a bored 29-year-old electronics salesman whose girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is fed up with his slacking ways, which include over-patronizing the local pub (The Winchester) and indulging his unemployed slob of a roommate Ed (Frost). He's also been neglectful of his mother (Penelope Wilton), as his stepdad Philip (a wonderfully frosty Bill Nighy) reminds him.
Shaun just can't seem to get it together and is indeed so out of it that he doesn't notice unmistakable signs of the undead in his neighborhood (bloody handprints at the grocer's, shuffling pedestrians, blaring news headlines). Ed is equally clueless, as evidenced by his gleeful reaction to the duo's first zombie encounter, which occurs in their garden ("Oh my god, she's so drunk!").
Once they finally figure it out, however, Shaun, wielding a mean cricket bat, uncharacteristically takes charge. He comes up with a plan which involves picking up his mum and Liz then hiding out in -- where else? -- the pub, the safest place he can think of, until the whole catastrophe "blows over." Naturally, the road to The Winchester is strewn with aggressive, fast-multiplying zombies and complicated by Philip's own transformation (which ends in a particularly moving speech) among other obstacles.
The group -- Shaun, his absent-minded mum, foolhardy Ed, level-headed Liz and her two disapproving roommates, Diane (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran) -- finally breaks into the Winchester, and things naturally get even scarier and more gruesome. Uptight David, who, per horror-movie convention, has been battling Shaun every step of the way, gets even more antagonistic. Even worse, Mum -- who's been stoically hiding a wound because she "didn't want to be a bother" -- has taken a turn for the worse (clip contains R-rated language):
The scene nicely embodies the film's razor-sharp blend of humor and horror. As David and Shaun face off over Mum's plight, most of the group turn on each other and begin brandishing a rifle, broken bottles and a corkscrew. Accusations are hurled, hilariously irrelevant -- but rom-com perfect -- dialogue ensues, as do zombie-flick chestnuts ("She's not your mum anymore!"), and, to top it all off, there's a tender moment between Shaun and Liz that enables him to do the unthinkable. It's a fantastic scene from the movie that still defines the ever-proliferating zombie-humor genre.