“As Bertrand Russell once said, ‘The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.’ I think we can all appreciate the relevance of that now,” says Shaun. Liz asks, “Was that on a beer mat?” Shaun responds, “Yeah, it was Guinness Extra Cold.”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the first entry in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. I didn’t know what to make of Wright’s directorial debut when I first saw the poster. It was clear that it was a British horror film and its tagline “A romantic comedy. With Zombies.” was very intriguing. I had acquired a pass to attend a preview screening of the film, but my college work prevented me from attending (I gave it to a classmate who ended up enjoying the film very much). I finally got to see Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead a few weeks after it opened here in the U.S., and I enjoyed it very much. It also introduced me to the holy trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, and marked the first of several successful collaborations they’ve had.
2004’s Shaun of the Dead centers on a man named Shaun who is trying to find his aim in life. Once Shaun realizes that there’s a zombie epidemic, his big plan is to team up with his best friend Ed to rescue his recent ex-girlfriend Liz (in the hopes of winning her back) as well as his mother and stepfather, and bring them to his favorite pub to hide out (believing they’ll be safe there) until the zombie influx has ended. Wright assembled an impressive cast for his debut: Simon Pegg (as Shaun), Nick Frost (as Ed), Kate Ashfield (as Liz), Lucy Davis (as Dianne), Dylan Moran (as David), Peter Serafinowicz (as Pete), Jessica Hynes (as Yvonne), Bill Nighy (as Phillip, Shaun’s stepfather), and Penelope Wilton (as Barbara, Shaun’s mother).
Pegg and Frost are terrific together as best friends Shaun and Ed. You’ve got to love how oblivious they first are to the spreading zombies, being unable to distinguish the living from the undead. When they finally catch on to what’s going on, their reactions are just hilarious. I also loved Shaun and Ed’s little exchange over the use (or lack thereof) of the word ‘zombie,’ as well as the brief encounter between Shaun’s group of survivors and Yvonne’s (which features a blink-and-you’ll-miss cameo from Martin Freeman). The screenplay by Pegg and Wright deftly balances the humor and the drama, serving as both an effective romantic dramedy and zombie horror film.
Wright’s kinetic visual style gives the film an extra dose of energy, matched by David M. Dunlap’s unsuspectingly eerie cinematography and Chris Dickens’ well-paced editing. The makeup design by Jane Walker and Stuart Conran was superb, resulting in some of the best zombie prosthetic effects I’ve ever seen on screen. The terrific score by Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford pays homage to past Italian zombie horror scores. Overall, Shaun of the Dead is hilarious and scary, good fun. It successfully satirizes zombie films (especially the George Romero ones) while paying homage to them. There are, of course, enough blood and guts (and brains!) to satisfy the hardcore zombie fans. If you’re looking for a good laugh and a scare, you can’t go wrong with Edgar Wright’s debut feature. Happy 10th anniversary, Shaun!