Thursday, 2 February 2012

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 British zombie comedy directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Pegg and Wright. Pegg plays Shaun, a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with his girlfriend, his mother and stepfather. At the same time, he has to cope with an apocalyptic uprising of zombies.

The film is the first of what Pegg and Wright call The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with Hot Fuzz (2007) as the second and The World's End (TBA) as the third. In some markets, the film was released as Zombies Party.

The film was a critical and commercial success in the UK, and the US. It received a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 76 out of 100 at Metacritic. Shaun of the Dead was a BAFTA nominee. Pegg and Wright considered a sequel that would replace zombies with another monster, but decided against it as they were pleased with the first film as a stand-alone product, and thought too many characters died to continue the story.

The Plot

Shaun Riley (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old salesman whose life has no direction. His younger colleagues at work show him no respect, has a rocky relationship with his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy), a tense relationship with his housemate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun's crude best friend who lives on their couch and deals marijuana, and his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), is unsatisfied with their social life, because it consists primarily of spending every evening at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed's favourite pub, as well as the fact that they never do anything alone together – Shaun always brings Ed and she has to bring her flatmates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis). After a miserable day at his work, Shaun gets stopped on the street by an old friend Yvonne (Jessica Stevenson) who asks him what he and Liz are doing for their anniversary — a question which makes him realise he forgot to book a table at the restaurant he had promised Liz the previous night and on a telephone conversation with her. Faced with this failure on Shaun's part, Liz decides she has had enough and breaks up with him. Shaun then drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester where Ed convinces Shaun that he may be better off without Liz. The two return home after midnight and spin electro records, only to have Pete confront them, who is suffering a headache after being mugged and bitten by "some crackheads". Pete berates Shaun and tells him to sort his life out. Shaun, at first angry, slowly lets his (still intoxicated) mind absorb what Pete has told him, and indeed resolves to sort his life out.

The next morning, an apocalyptic uprising of the dead has overwhelmed most of the town, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his relationships and problems and too hungover to notice at first. He and Ed just barely begin to become aware what is happening after watching reports on TV and as zombies attack their house. After fighting back some zombies with weapons from the shed, they decide they need to ensure they are somewhere safe. Shaun and Ed realise that the safest place they know is the Winchester, and they plan to collect Shaun's mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), Phillip, Liz and her flatmates. Shaun discovers that Pete is still in the house and is now a zombie, but he and Ed manage to escape in Pete's car. After collecting Barbara and Phillip, who is bitten in the process, they switch cars and drive in Phillip's Jaguar and head to Liz, Dianne and David's flat, and collect them. Before they make it to the Winchester, Phillip dies of his bite, after he manages to make peace with Shaun. Forced to abandon the car after Phillip turns into a zombie, they set off on foot, bumping into Yvonne and her own band of survivors. Discovering that the path is infested with zombies, they devise a plan to sneak by, but Ed and Shaun get into an argument and the zombies realise they are not dead and approach. David smashes the window while Shaun distracts the zombies. Everyone takes refuge inside the pub, and Shaun joins them after giving the zombies the slip.

After several hours, the zombies return. Ed inadvertently gives away their position when he wins on the fruit machine and the zombies converge on the pub. Shaun discovers that the Winchester rifle above the bar is functional and they use it to fend off the zombies breaking in. However, Barbara reveals a bite wound she picked up along the way and dies to becomes a zombie that is shot by Shaun, David is dismembered by the zombies, and a frantic Dianne unbolts the door to leave and rescue him, exposing Shaun, Liz and Ed to the zombies. Ed prepares a Molotov cocktail to fend them off, but Pete arrives and bites him. He manages to get over the bar and Shaun uses the cocktail to ignite the bar. They escape into the cellar but after finding themselves cornered, they contemplate suicide, but discover a service hatch. Shaun and Liz escape through the hatch as a mortally wounded Ed stays behind with a cigarette and the rifle. Back on the street, as Shaun and Liz prepare to fight the zombies once more, the British Army arrives and they are rescued. Yvonne, who has also survived, shows up and tells Shaun and Liz to follow her. They approach the safety of the trucks, reconciled.

Six months after the outbreak, the situation is under control with all of the uninfected returning to daily life, while the remaining zombies, retaining their instincts, are used as cheap labour and entertainment. Liz and Shaun have moved in together in Shaun's house, and Shaun is keeping Ed, who is now a zombie, tethered in the shed and playing video games.


Shaun of the Dead received critical acclaim, with the film receiving a score of 91% at the comparative review website Rotten Tomatoes (with a Cream Of The Crop score of 94%) and a score of 76 out of 100 at Metacritic which indicated universal acclaim. Nev Pierce, reviewing the film for the BBC, called it a "side-splitting, head-smashing, gloriously gory horror comedy" that will "amuse casual viewers and delight genre fans." Peter Bradshaw gave it four stars out of five, saying it "boasts a script crammed with real gags" and is "pacily directed [and] nicely acted."

In 2004, Total Film magazine named Shaun of the Dead the 49th greatest British film of all time. In 2005, it was rated as the third greatest comedy film of all time in a Channel 4 poll. Horror novelist Stephen King described the movie as "...a '10' on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic." In 2007, Stylus Magazine named it the 9th greatest zombie movie ever made. In 2007, Time named it one of the 25 best horror films, calling the film "spooky, silly and smart-smart-smart" and complimenting its director: "Wright, who'd be a director to watch in any genre, plays world-class games with the camera and the viewer's expectations of what's supposed to happen in a scare film.". Bloody Disgusting ranked the film second in their list of the 'Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade', with the article saying "Shaun of the Dead isn't just the best horror-comedy of the decade – it's quite possibly the best horror-comedy ever made." In December 2009, Now Magazine deemed Shaun of the Dead the best film of the decade.

George A. Romero was so impressed with Pegg and Wright's work that he asked them to appear in cameo roles in the 2005 film Land of the Dead. Pegg and Wright insisted on being zombies rather than the slightly more noticeable roles that were originally offered.

Quentin Tarantino dubbed the film as one of his top twenty films made since 1992.

In March 2011, the film was voted by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra listeners as their second favourite film of all time. Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption came in first place.

The Cast

Simon Pegg as Shaun Riley
Nick Frost as Ed
Kate Ashfield as Liz
Lucy Davis as Dianne
Dylan Moran as David
Penelope Wilton as Barbara
Bill Nighy as Phillip
Jessica Stevenson as Yvonne
Peter Serafinowicz as Pete
Rafe Spall as Noel
Jeremy Thompson as Himself
Martin Freeman as Declan
Reece Shearsmith as Mark
Tamsin Greig as Maggie
Julia Deakin as Yvonne's mum
Matt Lucas as Cousin Tom
Mark Donovan as Hulking Zombie
Trisha Goddard as Herself
Jack Fairbairn as Hulking Zombie 2
Patricia Franklin as Spinster
Chris Martin as Himself
Aaron as Himself
Keith Chegwin as Himself
Krishnan Guru-Murthy as Himself
Carol Barnes as Herself
Rob Butler as Himself
Vernon Kay as Himself
Robert Popper as Newsreader
Rob Brydon as Newsreader Voiceover
Edgar Wright (cameo) as newsreader / prat-falling zombie / Italian restaurant voice

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