Retro Review – Shaun of the Dead

When the zombie apocalypse hits London, Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) decide to hole up in their favourite pub and wait for everything to blow over. The only trouble is that Shaun and his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) broke up, and his great plan for survival may not be the best way to win her back.

It has been nine years since Shaun of the Dead first graced our screens, and the good news is that it is still a great a film as ever. Pegg, Wright and Frost created the cult hit TV comedy Spaced (along with Jessica Hynes) and this was their first attempt to bring their comedy spark to the big screen.

Simon Pegg, as Shaun, is a character that almost everyone who has felt stuck can relate to. Shaun is a man who is caught in his routine, and it takes a zombie apocalypse to shake him from his stupor. Pegg is obviously in his element here – even though the character is rather similar to Tim from Spaced – and he does a fine job of making Shaun relatable and, once the crisis hits, a man whose ideas are small but workable.

Nick Frost carries on his tradition of playing sidekick to Pegg; Ed is vulgar, rude and rather lazy and his attitude does not seem to change throughout the film, making him a constant source of annoyance but also a source of security for Shaun. The rest of the cast is made up of Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy as Shaun’s mother and stepfather, Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran as Liz’s flatmates and a host of cameos from actors such as Jessica Hynes, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas and Rafe Spall.

Since Shaun of the Dead, director Edgar Wright has made a name for himself making films that tell a relatively small story on an epic scale. This tradition started with Spaced – the story of two people sharing a flat whose adventures become huge and life affirming – and carries on in Shaun of the Dead. This is, after all, the story of a man who is just trying to get his girlfriend back. Wright’s signature style of directing, with smash cuts and nostalgic music, are in full evidence here, and they not only fit the tone of the film, but also the emotional stage that the characters are at; neither adults nor children, and somehow stuck.

Pegg and Wright have written a story that is as silly as it is funny; the gang are consistently thrown into situations that their life in suburban London has not prepared them for. Their reaction is to treat their survival like a video game, but their fears, insecurities and character quirks hold them back. As well as this, past animosities are anything but forgotten as this group of people are forced to stay together for their own safety. The jokes, like Spaced, often hinge on pop culture references and are frequently set up then ignored after the punch line, but this is partly the point; not everything in life is resolved.

Shaun of the Dead is still an original and funny take on the fact that life continues, even in the face of the unthinkable. Wright, Frost and Pegg are at their best here as they showcase the best of British comedy, acting and general silliness.

Rating: 5/5

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