December 16, 2004 -- What could be a wackier idea for a movie than a romantic zombie comedy? Who would think such a nutty idea could be made into a successful movie? Believe it or not, this goofy goal has been achieved in “Shaun of the Dead.” The result is both gory and hilarious. It is a more complex film with a lot more plot and character depth than you would expect of a lowly horror genre film. You might have guessed this strange little movie is an example of British humor.
The protagonist, Shaun (Simon Pegg of “24-Hour Party People”), is a slacker type who is such a loser his girlfriend bails on him. He works in a store with younger employees who show him no respect. His life looks dismal indeed. His best friend, Ed (Nick Frost) is even more of a slacker than Shaun. Things look pretty bleak for Shaun until zombies strike London. One of the running jokes in the movie is that the zombies don't behave a whole lot differently than bored people who don't get enough sleep. Uninfected people shuffle along in their dreary existence, not paying much attention to their surroundings, including the zombies. The main difference between zombies and “normal” people is that they don't talk and they do eat people. The zombie epidemic gives Shaun and Ed a chance to become unlikely heroes.
Shaun and Ed decide to hole up in their favorite local pub, taking some others, as well as his ex-girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield of “Beyond Borders”) along. While in the pub, tempers flare and various problems in the relationships between the protagonists are revealed. An interesting scene between Shaun and his stepfather reveals a lot about both men, and why Shaun became such a slacker. This kind of character development is an unexpected bonus in a silly comedy. As the situation gets more desperate in the pub, the film becomes less of a comedy and more of a drama. Those in the pub fortress are picked off one at a time by the zombies.
In the end, however, the film returns to its comic roots. The scenes of zombies playing video games and appearing on reality TV shows are priceless. A funny comedy that also works as a drama, it includes some sharp social insights about how we're all zombies sometimes. The characters are much more sharply drawn and well-developed than you would expect. Most Hollywood-made comedies don't bother with in-depth characters like this. In fact, most Hollywood films don't give you this much in the way of character development. The film also utilizes unusual repetitive high-speed montages to illustrate alternative realities. These sequences are used to good effect in the film. This film rates a B.
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