|Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Penelope Wilson, Bill Nighy
Director: Edgar Wright
Check out where it ranked on our list of the Best Horror Movies.
Unlike most zombie films that either push social reform (“Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later”) or exploit teenage male hormones (“Resident Evil: Apocalypse”), “Shaun of the Dead” is delightfully simple. Co-written by director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, this gory zombie satire is filled to the brim with charming English wit, but even though the comedic duo (best known for the hit Brit TV show “Spaced") tirelessly pokes fun at their favorite zombie flicks, they still respect and follow every one of the genre's rules.
Shaun (Pegg) has been sleepwalking through a lifestyle of tediousness for years, working a dead-end sales job at an electronics store and spending his nights at the Winchester pub with girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) and best mate Ed (Nick Frost). After Liz dumps him because he refuses to commit to a relationship that doesn't always end with a beer at the Winchester, Shaun begins his discouraging walk home. Upset about his breakup and therefore oblivious to his surroundings, Shaun fails to notice the flesh-eating zombies invading the city streets. Once Shaun and Ed finally do notice a zombie girl staggering around their backyard with bloodshot eyes, they can only come up with one logical explanation: “She’s so drunk!” But after discovering that she’s keen on sinking her teeth into them, they make a quick trip inside for some head-slicing ammo. Following a hilarious gag that involves the two friends bickering about which records to throw Frisbee-style at the intruders, they arm themselves with a shovel and cricket bat and head off on a mission to save Liz and Shaun’s mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilson), with only one safe house in mind: the Winchester.
“Shaun of the Dead” is a pleasant surprise for those still not convinced that British comedies are funny. The film is perfectly paced and doesn’t mind spending 20 minutes to develop the main characters, especially when the audience is introduced to such rich personalities as Shaun and Ed, characters you won’t find in American cinema. The writing is dead on and never misses a comedic beat, particularly when Bill Nighy shows up in a cameo role unconcerned about his bite mark because he “ran it under a cold tap.” “Shaun of the Dead” is a one-of-a-kind hybrid that offers unique tongue-in-cheek humor for everyone and represents one of the most enjoyable trips to the movies this year.
One of most enjoyable films of the year is now one of the year's most enjoyable DVDs with hours of hilarious special features, including audio commentaries, outtakes and extended scenes. Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, "Shaun of the Dead" has plenty of bonus material to keep any fan busy in case of a sudden zombie breakout. Headlining the disc are two full-length audio commentaries with director Edgar Wright and cast. The first commentary features only Wright and Simon Pegg in a discussion that mainly focuses on the production aspects of the film, while the second commentary leaves a lot more room for joking around between the film's five main characters.
"Raw Meat" is one of the better sections on the disc and includes Simon Pegg's video diary, casting tapes, a flip chart pitch that diagrams the earlier stages of the film, make-up tests and a short special composed mostly of cast interviews. The shining star of "Raw Meat" is the SFX comparisons section that displays the step-by-step process of some of the film's cooler sequences. Now we can finally see how the filmmakers managed to shove a giant metal pole through a female zombie! The other grade-A section of the disc, "Missing Bits," offers extended and deleted scenes, explicit-free and re-dubbed versions of certain scenes and a hilarious outtakes reel. Also included is an interesting "Plot Holes" section that follows up on loose ends about the fates of Lucy, Simon and Nick.
Finally, the DVD includes a zombie gallery filled with photos, poster designs and a comic strip, as well as a theatrical trailer and full-length versions of the TV bits that Shaun flips through on the television. Overall, "Shaun of the Dead" is worth the price of a rental if only to see an excellent import from the UK, but if you're a real fan of the film, you'll love the time and effort poured into the DVD release.