Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Film Review: Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Genre: Romantic zombie comedy
Grade: Effing hilarious

When I looked ahead on the October calendar and saw that this last Friday would be the day before Halloween, I realized I needed some kind of horror film or monster film or, well you get the picture, to tie in with it. But since that genre isn’t something I normally watch and I wanted some romance in the film, I was a bit panicked. “What can I watch?” I muttered as I chewed a fingernail. A quick check of my Netflix queue and the day is saved. I’ll watch “Shaun of the Dead!” I said.

The plot is fairly simple. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29 year old appliance salesman who’s having problems with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) who is dissatisfied with their relationship, primarily because it revolves around going to “The Winchester,” Shaun’s favorite pub, every night. She wants something different, a nice dinner at a nice restaurant somewhere other than the pub. But Shaun screws even that up and tops it off by giving her flowers, complete with card, that he’d bought for his mother. She dumps him and Shaun and one of his flatmates, Ed (Nick Frost), head to the pub to drown Shaun’s sorrows.

The next day, something weird seems to be going on in the streets of London. At first they’re almost deserted, though Shaun barely notices anything different until he and Ed see a young woman in their small flat garden. They eventually realize she’s a zombie then retreat inside where the telly news announcer informs London that zombies are taking over the country and the only way to kill them is to remove their heads or destroy their brains. Armed with this knowledge and some weapons improvised from the garden shed, they dispatch her and another zombie. Worried about Shaun’s mother (Penelope Wilton), Liz and whether or not they’ll have to kill Phillip (Bill Nighy), Shaun’s stepfather who’s apparently been bitten by one of the undead, the two devise a plan to pick everyone up and drive to the Winchester where they think they’ll be safe.

But with the numbers of the undead flesh eating zombies growing, is there anywhere in London that’s safe?

As I said, I don’t watch horror films beyond the occasional “Hammer” film so a lot of the delicious homages to the film genre passed right over my head. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a fan to enjoy this film. Pegg and his co-writer Edgar Wright, who also directed the film, also include a number of other homages to British TV shows and video games. Again, if you catch these it’s great but you certainly don’t need to know all the references to have fun with the movie. I had a great time picking out various actors and trying to remember where I’d seen them (It’s “Dawn” from “The Office!”).

The gore is fairly low key and generally consists of face paint and off screen deaths until the final scenes at the Winchester. Here, with Shaun and the others using the namesake rifle from over the pub bar, things get bloodier. The death of one of their number who gets dragged outside by the zombies is fairly graphic but it’s over quickly. In the storyboard “Plot Holes,” which are part of the DVD extras, we learn that another person actually survives being hauled amongst the undead.

We never actually learn how the zombie apocalypse begins and the ending features a major deus ex machina, but the film is so funny and enjoyable that I don’t care. At times, such as when Shaun is battling his way to Liz’s flat, I was literally holding my sides laughing as I screamed, “It’s like whack-a-mole!” The scene in the Winchester when several of their hearty band bludgeon the zombie pub owner to the beat of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is hilarious.

Recently, DA has received offers of a number of zombie books for review and Jane mentioned that zombies seem to be the new vampires of UF. Hopefully they’re not like these zombies or I’d have to ask, as an aghast talk show host character does in the film, “You sleep with that?!” But if you’re looking for a great film for Halloween, do check this one out. I’m off to watch it for a second time now.

~Jayne

FTC discloser – I rented this from a movie rental service though I plan to buy my own copy.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

50 Comments

  1. Sandy James
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 04:29:08

    My college-aged son introduced me to this movie. I totally agree with the A rating! I’ve always enjoyed British humor, and Shaun of the Dead provided it in heaping helpings! Great flick for Halloween weekend!

  2. Marc Nobbs
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 04:33:59

    I love this film. The ‘Don’t stop me Now’ sequence is genius. Simply genius.

  3. Babs
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 04:41:49

    Full disclosure, I <3 Simon Pegg.

    That said, this film is brilliant (especially if you are a fan of zombie movies because it has several scenes that are nods to Romero…while being hysterically funny!) The scene in the pub set to Queen literally made me fall off the couch laughing…and the sequence when Shaun leaves the house on his way to work and doesn't notice the others on the street around him are zombies is classic — are they drones in a daze heading to the office or zombies?!? Hard to tell…

    Excellent recommendation for this holiday weekend!

  4. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 04:51:56

    @Sandy James: Have you seen “Hot Fuzz?” Same people behind it but it’s a spoof of action, law enforcement films. I hope to eventually do a review of it too although it has no romance in it.

  5. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 04:52:48

    @Marc Nobbs: “Kill the Queen!”

  6. Anne Douglas
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 05:00:03

    Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are just genius. And Simon Pegg as Scotty? I think there might be a chance for better than the original right there.

  7. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 05:25:41

    @Anne Douglas: Am looking forward to seeing it too.

  8. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 05:31:15

    and the sequence when Shaun leaves the house on his way to work and doesn’t notice the others on the street around him are zombies is classic -’ are they drones in a daze heading to the office or zombies?!? Hard to tell…

    Hmmm, now that I think about it, they do tend to resemble my coworkers in the morning….[g]

  9. Mandi
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 05:39:29

    LOVE this movie! I heart Simon Pegg. Hot Fuzz was hilarious too. I hear they are teaming up again for a movie called “The World’s End”

  10. mina kelly
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:14:24

    If you can get hold of them, George’s Intervention and Wasting Away are also hilarious zomromcoms (Well, George’s Invention is just zomcom, really). It is rapidly truning into my favourite new niche genre!

    (Oh, and have you seen the Hot Fuzz slash fanfic Edgar Writer and Simon Pegg composed on twitter? Even they like the idea of Hot Fuzz being interpreted as a romance!)

  11. The Octopus Gallery
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:38:21

    I really enjoyed this movie a lot, although I really could have done with out the gore at the end. Given that there had been so little of it up to that point, it really seemed like it was thrown in just because there hadn’t been any yet. The intestines were purely gratuitous. That said, I may have to dig out my copy for tomorrow night.

  12. Sharron M
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:41:17

    One of my favorie zombie movies of all time and I am a big fan of the zombie! My guess is that they used the “gore” budget in that last scene at the pub. :)

    Another fabulous, funny as hell zombie move that just came out–Zombieland. I about peed myself laughing.

    Still, as much as I love zombie movies, I can’t see them in romance novels. It seems waay too creepy. Vampires have always been romanticized. Zombies? Not so much. And I can see getting past that in my head.

  13. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:42:47

    @The Octopus Gallery: Yes, I agree re: the gore level. It’s like, all of a sudden – intestines! I wasn’t sure if this is standard for zombie movies or just the way this movie is.

  14. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:46:34

    @Sharron M:

    Another fabulous, funny as hell zombie move that just came out-Zombieland. I about peed myself laughing.

    Oh, wait. Netflix has two movies with this title listed. Are you talking about the Woody Harrelson one or the one which looks like it’s French?

  15. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 06:52:32

    @mina kelly: Mina, looks like it’ll be awhile before I could watch either of your recs. One is a “save” at Netflix and the other isn’t even listed yet.

    I was going to review “Hut Fuzz” as a buddy flick but slash could work too.

  16. The Octopus Gallery
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:06:14

    I can’t really say if it’s typical of other zombie movies. I don’t watch them because of probable gore! My tolerance has really gone down as I’ve gotten older. I can’t even watch Supernatural.

  17. Has
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:14:25

    @Jayne:

    In a way I would consider that a Bromance – so its a romantic sorta :D
    I also heard they are working on an alien themed road trip movie – its going to come out next year I think.

  18. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:15:35

    @The Octopus Gallery: Yes, I’m totally with you on not usually watching this type of movie due to possible gore. And it’s why I delayed watching “Shaun of the Dead” even after I’d loved “Hot Fuzz.” But I’m ready for the intestine scene now and can look away (“Don’t look, Marion!”)

  19. Carolyn Jewel
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:20:58

    Shaun of the Dead is one of my fav movies ever. Hot Fuzz might actually be better, though. My son and I went to the movies 2x to see it.

  20. Mireya
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:29:50

    I saw this one and “Hot Fuzz” when comedy central picked them. I wonder if they will show it again over the weekend. For Halloween I’d also recommend “Mars Attacks!” I know, not a spoof on horror movies, but it’s twisted sense of humor and the Martians evilness certainly make it a suitable fun one to watch for Halloween. “Fright Night” is another good one to watch for Halloween. P.S. Both have romance.

  21. Sharron M
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 07:41:02

    @Jayne:

    New Woody one (Still in theaters) . I still quote the “Rules of Zombieland” at work
    1) Cardio (srsly!)
    2) The doubletap
    Not as funny when written with no background but hysterical in the movie.

  22. Gina
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 08:32:28

    I generally do not watch horror movies, but Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorites. I love it so much I bought it on DVD, and it is the *only* horror movie in my DVD collection.

    In regards to zombies in romance, I always think of the ghouls in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series as zombies. They’re dead. They eat flesh. Maybe I’m missing the finer points of what constitutes a zombie, but I can see how an author could make a zombie love work. :D

  23. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 08:57:06

    @Gina:

    In regards to zombies in romance, I always think of the ghouls in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series as zombies. They're dead. They eat flesh. Maybe I'm missing the finer points of what constitutes a zombie, but I can see how an author could make a zombie love work. :D

    Maybe a zombie/zombie (zomzom) book could be made to work. But for me that’s a mighty big maybe. I think any kind of courtship would be hard. “Wanna go out to eat somewhere?” “Sure, where?” “I dunno, maybe we could just grab someone off the street?”

  24. Chicklet
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:12:10

    Love love love Shaun of the Dead! Here in Minneapolis, a zombie-themed bar, Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den, opened recently, and the bartenders dress like Shaun.

    And I would love a Friday review of Hot Fuzz! And I really do think of it as a romance. “…but he can’t do it, because he loves him sooooooo much.”

  25. Gina
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:20:13

    @Jayne: LOL I see your point. I figure that if I can buy into werewolves, vampires, fairies, aliens, and demons then I can keep an open mind about zombies. I really liked the relationship between Rodney and Cat’s mom in the Night Huntress series, and that was ghoul/human then ghoul/vamp. True, it was a secondary relationship and I have no idea if it would have worked as the primary pairing, but I thought it was an interesting match and his dietary requirements didn’t really impede my reading enjoyment. Just like with vampires, it depends on how an author builds their world (i.e., the vamps in the Guardian series are sexy as hell, but the vamps in the Kate Daniels series creep me out).

  26. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:23:04

    @Chicklet:

    the bartenders dress like Shaun.

    Complete with the red stain on their shirt pockets? Oh, how funny.

  27. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:26:23

    @Gina: I guess a good author could make any couple work. It’s all in the writing and character/world building. Isn’t that what we all say? Still, I just can’t imagine bringing my zombie boyfriend home to meet mother.

  28. Gina
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:33:48

    @Jayne: “Honey, why don’t you bring your beau over for dinner?” “I don’t think he’d like your pot roast, mom.” “Chicken fingers, then?” “Uh…”

    Yeah, that could be a bit awkward.

  29. Diana Peterfreund
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 09:48:23

    I love this film, and I don’t watch ANY horror. I own the DVD, and I cover my eyes at the intestines. It’s really the only gore in the flick, and it’s over in a flash.

    My husband is going as Shaun for Halloween. Complete with cricket bat.

  30. vanessa jaye
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 10:21:02

    I love, love, love, this film! The scene in the backyard is hysterical (cue to the zombie for the chorus: aagggrrrrhhh. lol)

    For sheer quotable cheese nothing beats Day of the Dead: Choke on em! Choke on eeemm! *g*

    I agree with you ever said Shaun of the Dead was a bromance. In many ways it was.

  31. MD
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 10:46:23

    Only watched the first five minutes of this movie. I wanted to see it, but I guess I have a terrible ear for accents. I couldn’t follow half of what was said onscreen and finally just gave up (subtitles might have been useful!). Maybe I’ll try again sometime. It does sound like a fun movie.

  32. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 11:10:58

    @MD: The disc I watched did have subtitles and I did make use of them. I love subtitles. Really, really love them.

  33. Patricia Briggs
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 11:46:50

    Mark Henry’s Amanda Ferel books are terrific . . . . horribly funny . . . I’m not sure I’d call them romances but I’d be pretty happy predicting that anyone who likes Shaun would love them. The first is Happy Hour of the Damned and the second is Road Trip of the Living Dead. Ignore the terrible covers.

    My favorite part of Shaun was the end scene with his roommate.

    Best,
    Patty Briggs

  34. Krista
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 11:53:23

    I have to admit I let out a little gasp and nearly broke my finger clicking on the review link when I saw this was the Friday film review!

    Hands down best zombie movie eva! And I am a huge fan of all things zombified.

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the part where Shaun’s rag-tag group impersonates zombies to make it to the pub unscathed. Hysterically funny!

    And as much as I <3 Simon Pegg, Nick Frost (as Ed) has some of the funniest lines.

    I didn't care for Hot Fuzz nearly as much as I loved this movie. Could be that since I am a Zombie fan I caught most of the nods to the genre and since I hate buddy-buddy cop movies all the nods to that genre flew over my head or reminded me why I hate those movies… =/

    Now I'm off to google "The World's End" cause that I gotta see!

  35. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:01:27

    @Patricia Briggs:

    My favorite part of Shaun was the end scene with his roommate.

    Ah, loved this part too. It is a Bromance!

    I’ll look into the Henry books just for the titles alone. They’re wonderful.

  36. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:06:46

    @Krista:

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the part where Shaun's rag-tag group impersonates zombies to make it to the pub unscathed. Hysterically funny!

    I know, I know! Brilliant scene but I was afraid if I kept referencing scene after scene after scene the review would have been pages long. Another line I love (and I’m paraphrasing since I don’t have my own copy of the DVD yet) is near the end when Shaun says to Liz, “I don’t think I could stand shooting my mother, my girlfriend and my best friend all in the same day.” Who would have ever thought I’d laugh my head off after hearing a line like this?

  37. Sandy James
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:08:03

    @Jayne: Yes, I got to see that, too. I liked it, but not nearly as much as Shaun of the Dead.

  38. Sharron M
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:09:37

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the part where Shaun's rag-tag group impersonates zombies to make it to the pub unscathed. Hysterically funny!

    This was brilliant! I think everyone has thought of this at one point and someone finally put it in a movie. :)

  39. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:27:41

    Please tell me you’ve all seen SPACED? I think they finally released it on DVD in the States . . . if you’re a Simon Pegg fan, it’s a MUST!!!

    Personally, Bill Nighy is my favorite part of the film. The whole bit in the car after he’s turned, LOL! That and “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” Nothing like an ode to a classic.

  40. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:29:24

    @Kalen Hughes: I must hang my head in shame and admit I haven’t watched “Spaced” yet. But I will. Promise.

  41. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:33:24

    Netflix it now. You’ll be glad you did. *grin* Lots of the same folks you see in SotD and HF. The “kept artist in the bedroom” is my favortie part . . .

  42. Maili
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 13:56:55

    Yay! I love, worship and adore Shaun of the Dead. Probably because I’m a devoted fan of TV series Spaced .

    Yes, there is a lot of film and pop culture references in Shaun of the Dead, but not as many as there are in Spaced (if you’re familiar with many popular American films, such as Star Wars, Star Trek (I’m not familiar with this), The Matrix, etc., you’ll be fine with Spaced).

    I didn’t enjoy Hot Fuzz as much as I enjoyed SOTD and Spaced. Love Bill Nighty, though. He has an awesome sense of comedy. Please do see his other film, Still Crazy, for proof if SOTD isn’t good enough. He’s an ageing rock star with an inflated ego and a terrible sense of organisation, but so patient with his rock-star hairdo.

    We never actually learn how the zombie apocalypse begins [...]

    That’s what makes it so enjoyable. It makes sense as well. An ordinary person in an ordinary London town wouldn’t easily find out how or why it started.

    “Oooh, so it was a leaked Project X virus? *whack* I see, I see. *whack* Those bloody zombies really get on my nerves. *whack* Could you go and make us a cuppa, love? *whack* And a couple of biscuits? I’m feeling a bit peckish.”

    My favourite moments:
    - Shaun’s morning walk to the newsagent’s
    - the conversation between Shaun and Liz (it’s so typical that I cried with laughter because almost everyone I know has had this conversation)
    - the process of selecting vinyl records in the garden
    - Shaun’s two plans to rescue his mum and Liz
    - Ed’s blatant crush on Shaun’s mum
    - Step-father Philip and Shaun’s squabble over Philip’s car (child lock!)

    I’d better stop. There are so many moments to love.

    @Jayne

    Have you seen “Hot Fuzz?” Same people behind it but it's a spoof of action, law enforcement films. I hope to eventually do a review of it too although it has no romance in it.

    Debatable. There were many touching romantic moments between Nicholas (Pegg) and Danny (Frost). Oh yes, indeed.

    @MD

    Use subtitles. Once you get used to their accents, you’ll dump subtitles.

  43. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 14:40:46

    Love Bill Nighty, though. He has an awesome sense of comedy. Please do see his other film, Still Crazy, for proof if SOTD isn't good enough. He's an ageing rock star with an inflated ego and a terrible sense of organisation, but so patient with his rock-star hairdo.

    I thought I was the only person in the world who even knew about this movie! I’ve introduced it to all my friends. I even own the soundtrack, LOL. On top of Nighy it has Billy Connolly. I love him so much I lurve him.

  44. Marsha
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 14:45:37

    Thanks for this review. I avoided the movie when it was out because I hate being grossed out so much. I don’t mind being scared – I just don’t like the icky stuff. A friend once made me a custom gore-free cut of Hellraiser and it was great – a really interesting movie once I could keep my eyes open to watch it.

    I can probably manage to avoid the intestines. So, yay!

  45. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 14:46:26

    Only watched the first five minutes of this movie. I wanted to see it, but I guess I have a terrible ear for accents. I couldn't follow half of what was said onscreen and finally just gave up

    You’re not alone. When I saw Snatch in the theatre the woman in front of me was lost, esp when the Pikies spoke. When she figured out we could understand them she kept turning around and saying “What did he just say?” Luckily the whole audience thought it was funny that we were “translating” for her: He said “She's partial to the periwinkle blue.”

  46. CD
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 16:11:33

    Oh I LOVE this film as well! And if you like it, you’d probably like SPACED as well – especially if you’re a bit of a film/TV geek.

    There were so many places in the film where I practically peed myself laughing. And seeing it again recently, I’m just amazed at exactly how tight the script is all the way through. And just how very English it actually is: “Not to worry – we ran it under a tap”.

    I don’t think anyone else has mentioned the extended scenes on the DVD – especially Trisha (a kind of British Oprah) interviewing a woman who’s married to a zombie – “he does get a bit nippy sometimes but he’s still my husband, and I love him”. And Coldplay being interviewed by another well-known TV chat show host about the latest charity that there’re support after the zombification of their guitar player: “Zombaid”. Because Zombies are people too. And then they introduce the new member of the band ;-)… Absolutely hysterical!! I don’t blame them all for just cracking up – it was amazing that they managed to keep a straight face for that long!

  47. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 19:51:29

    Has anyone seen Nighy in “The Girl in the Cafe?” Gets a tad preachy in the end but overall, I love Nighy’s befuddled “sorry” middle aged English bureaucrat persona.

  48. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 19:54:44

    Shaun's morning walk to the newsagent's
    - the conversation between Shaun and Liz (it's so typical that I cried with laughter because almost everyone I know has had this conversation)
    - the process of selecting vinyl records in the garden
    - Shaun's two plans to rescue his mum and Liz
    - Ed's blatant crush on Shaun's mum
    - Step-father Philip and Shaun's squabble over Philip's car (child lock!)

    All this and more. Like I said, I could have gone on about everything I loved about the film.

  49. Jayne
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 20:07:53

    And just how very English it actually is: “Not to worry – we ran it under a tap”.

    Oh God, that was priceless. And the awkward meeting of Shaun and Yvonne’s groups at the fence corner. “Hello.” “Hello” “Hi” “Hi”

  50. Kaetrin
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 23:51:48

    I loved this movie too. My favourite scene was where Shaun was, at the urging of one of his friends, trying to kill a zombie with the wrong end of a totem tennis pole – still cracks me up.

%d bloggers like this: