Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 comedy horror film co-written and directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote the film) and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead is the first in Wright’s “Three Flavours of Cornetto” trilogy, followed by 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End, all of which were written and directed by Wright and star Pegg and Frost. Shaun of the Dead lead to Wright’s mainstream success, cult status, and popularity as a director.
Shaun of the Dead follows Shaun, an underachieving electronics salesman with no direction or sense of purpose in life. He lives with his old friend from college, Pete, and his childhood friend Ed. Ed is a slacker and moocher who does nothing with his life and constantly holds Shaun back from his potential. After Shaun’s girlfriend Liz breaks up with him, the two go out for a night of wild, raucous drinking, which annoys the increasingly ill Pete. They awake in the morning, initially oblivious to the zombie apocalypse that had been slowly taking form over the past few days.
(Note that Ed asks Shaun for a Cornetto. In the proceeding films, similar references are made to the popular ice cream brand, hence the informal title for the trilogy.)
After comically realizing the gravity of the situation, Shaun and Ed make plans to A. Kill Shaun’s (conveniently infected) mean step-dad, B. Save his Mom, C. Save Liz, and D. Hide out at the pub the two young underachievers frequent.
As one can expect, none of this goes entirely according to plan, leading to both mishaps of the comical variety, and some of the less-comical variety as well.
Shaun of the Dead is both hilarious while also managing to be very heartfelt and meaningful when given the chance. It is also very stylized and very fast. Director and writer Edgar Wright does a wonderful job here, assisted in the writing of the script by star and future frequent collaborator Simon Pegg. Pegg’s acting, as it always is, is excellent. Pegg is a masterful comedian, especially in movies like Star Trek Beyond or any of the recent Mission: Impossible films, because he is never a buffoon. In fact, in every movie I’ve seen Simon Pegg in, his character is a competent person who also just happens to be funny, which is something a lot of comedy actors don’t seem to think is a thing. Yet, it is this that makes Pegg so good at comedy, both in his writing and in performance. Shaun is neither a bumbling moron nor is he a supremely effective hero protagonist, he is simply a guy, an aspect that works to the film’s tremendous advantage. Nick Frost plays a great obnoxious but lovable douchebag, for what that’s worth.
Of course, good acting and performances is not what makes a comedy movie good, it’s the comedy that does that. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, Shaun of the Dead is a very, very funny film. Unlike most parody films of this generation (although the film does not lampoon a specific zombie film, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it that), Shaun of the Dead never really goes for the lowbrow, sophomoric humor, except for an actually funny (Yeah, I’m dead serious!) fart joke that comes back in the end, opting instead for some really intelligent humor and gags.
Readers should be made aware of the upcoming minor tangent. Before I decided to review The Cornetto Trilogy this weekend, I decided to watch the historical romance film Allied that came out last year. I have a friend who saw it in theaters and it made her cry. I, on the other hand, also cried… tears of boredom. I was more emotionally invested in the entirety of Shaun of the Dead than I was within the first hour of Allied. I know that sounds like I’m not saying much (which I’m not), but there are some truthfully emotional moments in this film, which is more than I can say for Allied.
Shaun of the Dead, like most of Wright’s films, as well as the man himself, has gained a very large cult following in the years following its release, and for good reason. Shaun of the Dead is a hilariously impressive comedy film by itself, and a more than admirable start to a comedic trilogy that I have been told for years is rather excellent, but never bothered to check out until now. Boasting great acting, a great script, and some great filmmaking on the part of a great director, Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant comedy film that I feel I was late to the party on; it’s one that everyone should check out if they haven’t already.