SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Screenplay : Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Producer : Nira Park
Release Date : 9th April 2004 (UK)
Running Time : 99 minutes
Upon its cinematic release Shaun of the Dead was given a 15 parental guidance rating. This is due to the fact that the film is set during the advent of a zombie outbreak and as such there are many gory (albeit hilarious) scenes. From humans transforming into zombies and unfortunate individuals being eaten by zombies, irrespective of whether they are alive or dead, to humans exacting revenge on the living undead by killing them in a variety of graphic, ingenious and comedic ways, Shaun of the Dead definitely warrants its 15 parental guidance rating; even though its violent zombie fight scenes are often depicted in a hilariously haphazard fashion!
Since Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004 it has earned over $30million in worldwide box office receipts. The film has also received a wide range of praise from the general public and film critics as well as from notable figures within the horror industry. For instance, Shaun of the Dead received a 92% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes and 4 out of 5 stars from Empire magazine. Internationally renowned horror novelist Stephen King predicted the film to become a “cult classic” and described it as a “10 out of 10” in his eyes. Similarly, the horror director George A. Romero was so impressed with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s roles in Shaun of the Dead that he arranged for the pair to have cameo roles in his zombie film; Land of the Dead.
“Shaun of the Dead is an unexpected double joy: an unmissable English movie about the undead which is far from brain-dead and, simultaneously, a beautifully observed, very funny comedy”,
to American online film critic Roger Ebert who stated how;
“Instead of focusing on the Undead and trying to get the laughs there, it treats the living characters as sitcom regulars whose conflicts and arguments keep getting interrupted by annoying flesh-eaters”,
many of these film critics noted that one of the most amusing aspects about Shaun of the Dead is the fact that it offers a refreshing comic spin on conventional zombie movies.
“this cheerful horror comedy, starring and co-written by Simon Pegg of Channel 4’s Spaced, is as smart as paint. It’s pacily directed, nicely acted and boasts a script crammed with real gags… The spoof genre is usually so tricky but this brings it off: it’s spirited, good-natured, likable and funny, with great support from Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy as Shaun’s mum and stepdad. If it sometimes looks like a feature-length episode of Spaced, well that’s a good thing”.
Shaun of the Dead was an international cinematic success that earned the praise from both the mainstream public and film critics alike. Consequently, Shaun of the Dead won multiple awards including;
- “Saturn Award Best Horror Film” 2004 from the Academy of Science Fiction, for Fantasy and Horror
- Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg won “Best Screenplay” at the 2004 British Independent Film Awards
- Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg received a “Bram Stoker Award” in 2005 for the film’s screenplay
- Edgar Wright won “Rondo Statuette for Best Movie” 2004 at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards
- Simon Pegg won the “Peter Sellers Award for Comedy” 2005 Evening Standard British Film Awards
- The film received “Best Movie IHG Movie Award” by the International Horror Guild in 2005
- The cast and crew received “Empire Award for Best British Film” at the 10th Empire Awards in 2005
- “Best Wide-Release Film” category
- “Best Actor” being awarded to Simon Pegg
- Nick Frost receiving the accolade of “Best Supporting Actor”
- Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg being awarded “Best Screenplay”
- Jane Walker and Stuart Conran being commended with the “Best Makeup/Creature FX” award
“Shaun of the Dead isn’t just the best horror-comedy of the decade – it’s quite possibly the best horror-comedy ever made”.
What’s more, in December 2009, Now Magazine heralded Shaun of the Dead the best film of the decade. High praise indeed!
Set within the London suburb of Crouch End, Shaun of the Dead introduces us to the life of 29 year old Shaun James Riley. When we first meet Shaun he is facing multiple personal and professional dilemmas; he has seemingly given up on his dream to be a DJ in favour of working as a salesman, he is pestered by his roommate Pete to stop hanging around with his layabout best friend Ed, he has a strained relationship with his stepfather Phillip and he has just been dumped by his long term girlfriend Liz. Shaun decides that enough is enough and he is adamant that he will begin to get his life back on track. Unfortunately, the day that Shaun decides to turn his life around just so happens to coincide with the outbreak of an unknown incident which has caused the dead to come back to life as feral zombies! Now Shaun must rally with his best friend Ed, his mother Barbara, his stepfather Phillip, his estranged girlfriend Liz and her flatmates Dianne and David, as he leads this eclectic group of survivors towards the safest, most reliable and impenetrable fortress that Shaun knows; his local pub The Winchester Tavern.
Portrayed by Simon Pegg, Shaun James Riley is your typical 20-something British bloke living in Crouch End in London. Shaun’s life comprises mostly of working as a “Sales Adviser” at the Foree Electric store and drinking at his local pub, The Winchester Tavern with Ed, his best friend from school, and Liz, his long-term girlfriend. Shaun is devastated when Liz breaks up with him citing that he seems unwilling spend more time with her and achieve his full potential. However, the combination of Liz leaving him and the advent of a zombie apocalypse causes Shaun to discover courage and leadership abilities that he never knew he possessed as he strives to keep his family and friends safe at all costs.
Portrayed by Nick Frost, Ed is Shaun’s best friend from grammar school. After staying at Shaun’s house one night after a late drinking session at their local pub, The Winchester Tavern, Ed has remained living on Shaun’s couch for the past five years. Ed does not work and is largely dependent on Shaun; a factor which is a strong source of contention with Shaun’s roommate and old college flatmate Pete. However, despite his flaws Ed can always be depended upon to cheer Shaun up in his time of need and it is this casual and unabashed nature that offers some much-needed comedic relief throughout the bleakness of the zombie outbreak.
Liz, played by Kate Ashfield, and Shaun first met in Greece and have been dating for the past three years when the film begins. Like Shaun, Liz also lives in Crouch End where she works as the head of an English department. However, unlike Shaun Liz strives to achieve more out of her life and, as such, she becomes aggravated with the fact that Shaun seems content to discard his aspirations to become a DJ in favour of nightly drinking sessions at The Winchester Tavern with his friend Ed. When the zombie apocalypse first strikes, Liz remains within her flat with her old college friends, Dianne and David, whereupon Shaun endeavours to come to her rescue.
Liz’s flatmate Dianne, portrayed by Lucy Davis, is a calm and often quirky individual who remains far more composed in the wake of a zombie apocalypse than her boyfriend David. Before the living undead populated Crouch End Dianne worked as an actress; a profession which proves useful when Shaun and his ragtag group of family and friends need to pose as zombies in order to survive!
Often referred to as “Daffs” by Diane, David lives in Crouch End where he works as a lecturer and resides in a flat with Liz and Diane. Portrayed by Dylan Moran, it is clear from the start of the film that David still harbours amorous feelings for his flatmate Liz; despite the fact that their fellow college friend Diane is his girlfriend. These unresolved feelings mean that David is often overtly critical of Shaun and frequently disagrees with his leadership decisions throughout their many encounters with the living undead.
Portrayed by Penelope Wilton, Shaun’s mother Barbara is a soft spoken individual who cares deeply for her son whom she affectionately refers to as “pickle”. Despite this strong familial bond, Barbara and Shaun’s relationship is often strained due to the fact that, after Shaun’s father died, she remarried when Shaun was 12 years old. This ongoing tension between Shaun and Barbara’s second husband Phillip resurfaces when the dead begin to come back to life as Shaun attempts to rescue his mother from the escalating apocalypse.
When the film begins Barbara and her second husband Phillip, portrayed by Bill Nighy, have been happily married for 17 years. During this time, Phillip has had a strained relationship with his stepson Shaun; so much so that Shaun only visits Phillip and Barbara twice a month. Phillip is exceedingly neat and his most prized possession in life is his car; a vintage 1986 Jaguar Sovereign V12. Phillip’s strict personality and tidy nature further exacerbate the strain between Phillip and Shaun which is clearly evident when the film begins.
As the numerous international film awards and positive reviews listed above demonstrate, Shaun of the Dead is an extremely popular zombie comedy; and for good reason! The stellar cast, superb directing and quick witted writing influences behind Shaun of the Dead all combine to create an exceptional film that brilliantly blends the genres of comedy and horror. Whether you are a die-hard zombie enthusiast or whether you have simply been searching for a humorous film with a edgy twist, Shaun of the Dead is definitely worth a watch.