Shaun of the Dead (2004)

If you were to ask me right now which I prefer, British comedy or American comedy, I’d reply without a moment’s hesitation: British comedy. Uh-oh someone’s being unpatriotic! Think about it: they gave us “Monty Python”, “The Office”, “Coupling”, and inspiration for “All in the Family” and “Three’s Company” (and so much more), I love all British comedy because it’s just so utterly brilliant. Regardless, the British have comedy down to a tee, down to an art and theirs is subtle, so sharp and so unbelievably funny and sometimes weird, case in point: Shaun of the Dead. It’s quite obvious when watching this film that creators Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are not only pop culture buffs, but also horror buffs as they pay homage to the great George Romero with every aspect of a good zombie film, and yes there’s walking zombies, no runners here.

Some might see this as a spoof of “Dawn of the Dead” and in many respects it is, but only the title really has a resemblance. Pegg and Wright are famous comedians in the UK with a famous series named “Spaced” (which I’ve yet to see, but am anxious to) which earned them a huge fan following and by this, it’s not hard to understand why they’d be so prolific. This is just a brilliant film, instantly it earns a spot in my favorite films list; not many movies these days accomplish the notion of mixing comedy and horror into one mixture without ruining the other genre. These days either it’s too funny or not scary, and it’s really tough. “Scream” pulled it off pretty well, but then it just went down hill.

This pays homage to the modern and original “Night of the Living Dead”, and the original and modern “Dawn of the Dead” with even some references to “From Dusk Till Dawn” , and there are so many I won’t point a lot out to you, but some are so blatant you’ll just laugh out loud (We’re coming to get you Barbara!) and some are so subtle you have to really pay attention, and not once will you see a reference to another film and roll your eyes, because writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright slip it in with such charm that some you’ll chuckle to and some you’ll just belt out laughing, and Romero somewhere is watching this film and smiling with much satisfaction.

Taking a cue from the modern “Dawn of the Dead”, Shaun (Pegg) is a workaday yuppie who lives with his two roommates, one a strict tight fisted fellow named Pete, the other, Ed (Nick Frost) a freeloading shut-in who does nothing and contributes nothing but sitting on a couch all day playing video games, leeching off his friends, and complaining about everything, Shaun works at an electronics store with a group of teenagers who don’t listen to him, and is having trouble with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) meanwhile he has no idea that there’s a zombie apocalypse happening around him (Don’t you hate when that happens?). People run past him with a bloody face crying, he witnesses a man biting the head off a pigeon, people are literally dropping dead, yet, he still is unaware because he’s so self-involved he has no idea until it’s too late when they’re attacked by a woman in their garden whom they think is drunk but finally realize something is wrong when she’s impaled and gets back up, now alongside his friend Ed, he decides to save his girlfriend Liz to save his relationship, take her, his friends and his mom to his safe spot, the local pub where they’ll hide until it blows over, but will it?

I’d heard about this film literally everywhere and now as the trailers begin playing on American television, I just couldn’t wait to see this film and when I finally got the chance to check it out, I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, my expectations were more than met. What makes this so creepy as well as funny is that all the images here are so gruesome and horrific and our expressions throughout the film are laugh, cringe, laugh, cringe and over and over. What also wins this over with me is it’s funny, it’s actually funny. Simon Pegg who is just wicked in this is a great every day hero and every day Joe who finds it’s up to him to save his friends and family and will stop at nothing, if only he could get rid of Ed. They approach this zombie situation and the attacks by numerous zombies with such annoyance, not terror and it’s so utterly funny to watch as they bicker and strategize while they’re being attacked. The zombie effects are purely horrifying with echoes of Romero and Savini evident throughout the attacks and gory scenes that just will make you groan in horror.

Along with it Pegg and Wright are brilliant writers creating some of the most annoying but likable characters ever with Shaun who’s a loser, Ed who is just disgusting and a lowlife, Liz who’s annoying (I got a kick out of every time she said good bye: “bye, bye, bye, bye!!”), Shaun’s mom Barbara who is so passive aggressive she approaches the zombies as annoyances, and of course Liz’ friends Dianne (Lucy Davis from “The Office”), and David (Dylan Moran) who all band together to fight zombies and go to their beloved pub. Pegg and Wright manage to create some genuinely laugh out loud and scary sequences that just had me laughing in tears (My favorite being the sequence where Shaun is planning their heroic rescue of his mom and girlfriend) and where Ed and Shaun sing “White Lines” with a zombie, plus so much more that I’d love to tell but don’t have the heart to ruin. The comedy and one-liners are quick, they’re clever, and they’re just so funny, not to mention many scenes go from hilarious to frightening over and over and I never got bored once.

Beneath it are also some really dramatic heartbreaking scenes that not only mix in well, but create some character defining moments, one of which is an homage to “From Dusk Till Dawn” that just broke my heart. Nothing feels tacked on here, and nothing is cheesy, all is just so picture perfect and terrifying. Edgar Wright whom also directs does a good job here creating genuine tension, great foreshadowing, a lot of teasing to the audience, and some brilliantly shot scenes that will make you drop down in your seat laughing, all of which leads up to an ending so sick, so gross and utterly ironic that it will take time to seep in, but once you’ve stopped laughing you’ll realize what the final moments mean. A modern masterpiece, this is probably altogether the funniest and scariest film I’ve seen in years. I loved it; laugh out loud hilarious and just plain frightening this brilliant horror comedy proves that when it comes to comedy, the Brits got it down cold.