Shaun of the Dead manages to be both the best comedy and the best horror that I´ve seen in ages. This is an absolutely brilliant, action-packed movie featuring the cream of British comedy talent caught up in a zombie gore-fest. It is rare that I get this excited about a film and go to see it to find that it is even better than I had hoped.
Shaun is a normal bloke living in London, trolleying along through the daily grind from work to pub to bed. He is a disappointment to his girlfriend and can´t or won´t shake off his best mate who is generally abusive and unhelpful. However in the event of a zombie attack Shaun is no longer the loser. He gathers his mates, girlfriend and mum together and decides to hole up in his local, while slaughtering a bunch of the undead along the way.
The film stars and was co-written by Simon Pegg and he does a fantastic job. The other writer and director is Edgar Wright. This pair worked together previously on the excellent TV series Spaced, it was full of character, clever direction and great gags and references. Simon Pegg is extremely talented and he makes this film work, reprising his best mate relationship with Nick Frost (also in Spaced). Their double act is the central relationship and the one which provides most of the laughs.
Kate Ashfield plays Shaun´s girlfriend Liz, Dylan Moran (Black Books) plays David, the snidey flatmate of Liz, and his girlfriend Dianne is played by Lucy Davis (The Office). Along with Shaun and his best mate Ed they form the main group and each plays their part well, especially Moran who is exceptionally detestable. Bill Nighy makes an appearance as Shaun´s stepfather Philip and there are some great scenes between the pair. A host of other notable people have cameo appearances including Jessica Stevenson (Spaced), Matt Lucas (Little Britain) and Chris Martin (Coldplay).
The film moves along at a nice pace, building up the tension as Shaun goes about his life. There are many directorial touches which are familiar from Spaced and they are very effective here too, such as the quick montage of Shaun getting ready for work. The comedy is genius; some of the lines are achingly funny. The horror element definitely comes second but the gore effects are as good as any I´ve seen and I´m surprised it got away with a 15 certificate.
The zombies have great make-up and they shuffle about pathetically in the old school zombie way. There are several nice effects like the hole through the middle of the zombie girl that Shaun and Ed find in their garden, or the intensely gory death of David as he is literally pulled apart by hordes of zombies. However, there isn´t much in the way of real horror here, by the time David dies you hate him so much that it is really satisfying to see him meet a nasty end and most of the action scenes are more comedy than anything else - but this is what Pegg does best and it can´t fail to make you laugh.
It is impossible to do any of the scenes justice in words and so I think you really need to see this to appreciate how funny it is. I am admittedly a big fan of Simon Pegg and most of the rest of the cast, the cultural references in Spaced were spot on and it´s great to see them making movies. Romero, the father of the zombie genre, liked this film so much he gave Pegg and Wright a cameo in Land of the Dead.