Fifteen whole years. That is how long audiences have been blessed by the existence of the unforgettable cult classic Shaun of the Dead. With the June release of The Dead Don’t Die and Zombieland: Double Tap on the horizon, there is no better time to revisit the gold standard of zombie-comedy films. Not that anyone needs an excuse to watch Shaun of the Dead. This instant fan favorite has gone down in history as one of the most loved and admired British comedies of all time. Even critic acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino has Shaun of the Dead earmarked on his top 20 list of films made after the year 1992.
Shaun of the Dead was the first installment of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, the second being Hot Fuzz and the third The Worlds End. With its lovable cast and eccentric normalities, it is easy to see why audiences fell in love so strongly with the quirky comedy. Shaun of the Dead tells the story of Shaun, a directionless Londoner struggling with his meaningless existence, who in a bid to turn his life around decides to win back ex-girlfriend Liz. Unfortunately for Shaun his day only goes from bad to worse as he unintentionally lines up his moment of motivation with a zombie apocalypse.
Shaun of the Dead paved the way for zombie comedies, bringing together the chaos of a zombie invasion and the no-nonsense humor of the British nation. Greeting the zombie genre with such nonchalance was unique at the time and has inspired creations with similar atmospheres such as Zombieland and Warm Bodies. Shaun of the Dead’s charm lies in its absence of blockbuster charade. The gore and makeup effects are blunt, crass and striking in their instances but are juxtaposed with reactions of annoyance rather than farcical dramatics. Zombies are treated like an inconvenience rather than an outrageous catastrophe; sure they are the butt of a lot of jokes but the funny side comes from off-the-cuff witty satire. The wit is a trademark characteristic in Wright and Pegg’s Cornetto trilogy.
Wright’s talent takes center stage in Shaun of the Dead as he demonstrates a flair for creativity and originality. With snappy camera movements and unusual shots, Wright manipulates the very small and ordinary world of Shaun into a real-life action comic slice of life. The kinetic directing, stellar rock music and sitcom-style script all marry to create the epitome of perfect British comedy. So brash and black in humor, the sets, dialogue and cast all work to create something that could not be described as anything other than quintessentially British. Even when faced with death, killings and zombies the typical Londoners remain stubborn and level headed, set to undermine the seriousness of the situation.
Shaun of the Dead is undeniably a passion project, one where Pegg and Wright took the opportunity to pay homage to a vast collection of their favorite pop culture references. Shaun of the Dead includes nods to movies such as the Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later, paying respects to the trailblazers of Zombie cinema. Not only restricted to themes of the living dead, Wright also includes tributes to Star Wars, Queen, Spaced and many more, making Shaun of the Dead an all-round pop culture people pleaser. Audiences are also privy to the real-life experiences of the director as main characters Shaun and Ed are in fact based upon the experiences Pegg and Wright shared whilst living in a flat together. Including but not limited to Wright’s own hangover cure making an appearance in the form of a Cornetto, which as we know became iconic for its representation of the trilogy.
It is easy to see why the audience finds Shaun and his struggles relatable as the props and production team work harmoniously to replicate the average life of an average Joe in Britain. With oodles of local charm, Shaun of the Dead was bound to be a British favorite but it’s vulnerabilities and modesty also caught the attention of people from around the world. Throw the lovable Shaun into the middle a zombie invasion alongside a group of eccentric British oddballs and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for entertainment. With no doubt in my mind, Shaun of the Dead will remain a classic for decades to come, the energy, pace, and style are all wickedly addictive and exemplary. I would yearn anyone with a soft spot for black humor, zombies and deadpan delivery to head back to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all of this to blow over.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.