Shaun of the Dead screenshot

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun is content in his repetitive, uneventful life, and nothing short of a zombie apocalypse could force him to finally get his act together.

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Shaun of the Dead builds on an established history of zombies as they are remembered in popular culture, allowing the film to bypass lengthy expository sections. The audience already knows and understands what a zombie is and how to kill one, and they would only be bored by any attempts at an explanation. More importantly, the story isn't about how and why a zombie outbreak occurs, it's about Shaun sorting his life out.

Shaun is getting older, but not maturing at the same rate he's aging. His girlfriend is getting tired of doing the same thing night after night. Shaun loves his mother, but doesn't have the best relationship with his stepfather. His best friend is somehow even more immature than Shaun and a terrible influence. Then one day, Shaun's life falls apart, and he has to take charge and mature in a hurry to get it back on track. Plus, there are zombies.

Shaun of the Dead screenshot

Shaun of the Dead is a character-driven film that could have been made as a traditional romantic comedy, but the inclusion of zombies allows director Edgar Wright to tell the story without having to be literal. Shaun's problems are like a horde of zombies: when faced one at a time, they are easily defeated, but they can be nearly impossible to overcome when there are tons of them.

The title is a reference to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which (along with the original Night of the Living Dead) redefined zombies and set a high standard for the subgenre. Shaun of the Dead is well aware of the countless zombie movies released since Romero's Night, and wastes little time worrying how or why the zombies appear. Shaun's mom is named Barbara, and it's no coincidence that's also the name of a main character in Night of the Living Dead (the "mother" of all zombie movies).

The film makes light of established zombie concepts, but is far from a spoof. Even so, it may at first be hard to think of a comedy as a landmark of zombie fiction, but the truth is all great zombie movies have some level of humor. Shaun of the Dead combines all the established zombie elements into one film without trying to change or update the creatures. In doing so, it becomes one of the best and most important zombie films of all time.

Shaun of the Dead poster Shaun of the Dead title screen

Director

  • Edgar Wright

Cast

  • Simon Pegg as Shaun
  • Nick Frost as Ed
  • Kate Ashfield as Liz
  • Lucy Davis as Dianne
  • Dylan Moran as David
  • Penelope Wilton as Barbara
  • Bill Nighy as Philip