Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead

Published 6 years ago by , Updated October 6th, 2009 at 8:37 pm,

screen rant horror plus comedy shaun of the dead header Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead

Welcome to the first installment in a new Screen Rant Halloween lead-up series called “Horror Plus” – a feature which sets out to showcase one film that combines horror with another genre. It will basically serve as a review of the film at hand, explaining why it’s such a good example of genre merging.

Be sure to keep and eye out for other installments such as “Horror Plus Sci-Fi” and “Horror Plus Action” in the coming weeks leading up to Halloween on October 31st.

The first installment of our “Horror Plus” lineup is Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, a film that represents a successful mix of the horror and comedy genres. There’s also a romance angle thrown in there, leading to the playful tagline of “Rom-Com-Zom” – a romantic comedy with zombies. The film is simultaneously a wonderful parody of the zombie horror sub-genre and a brilliant example of it as well.

(The following may contain moderate SPOILERS)

Shaun of the Dead starts off with Shaun (Simon Pegg), an unmotivated and likable guy stuck in an endless day job, whose girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) leaves him because of his unwillingness to do anything different with his life other than spend his nights at the local pub. The morning after drowning his sorrows with his best friend, Ed (Nick Frost), he finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Realizing his love for his now ex-girlfriend, he attempts to leave his “secure” house to try and save her, as well as his mom.

shaun of the dead still2 Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead

It’s a fairly straightforward and simple zombie film plot, but the real greatness is in the details. You can really tell this film was made by not just filmmakers, but by film FANS. The idea for doing a zombie parody came from an episode of Pegg, Frost and Wright’s cult TV series, Spaced, in which Pegg’s character obsessively plays a Resident Evil game and when his roommate suddenly interrupts him, he has a hallucination that she’s a zombie.

The great thing about Shaun of the Dead is everything it has to offer in the one package: A parody of the zombie genre (where fans of the genre will get a kick out of recognizing the Easter eggs buried for them to find), and as a straight comedy, which stretches from the likes of physical gags (Pegg fighting off zombies with a cricket bat) to snappy verbal banter and dialogue between the characters (“Who died and made you fu**ing king of the zombies?”). For those who may not be big fans of horror, there’s also a romance to be found – relationship troubles and all – which just happens to be surrounded by a zombie plague; and finally, horror fans will enjoy the gore and atmosphere of the film.

Along with the brilliant comedic pair of Pegg and Frost (whose back-and-forth dialogue is often the best part), the movie sports some fantastic supporting performers: Kate Ashfield as Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz; the hilarious Irish comedian, Dylan Moran, plays Liz’s friend and serves as the a-hole of the film (but whose logic is mostly correct if you’re being objective); Lucy Davis as Liz’s other friend, Dianne; Peter Serafinowicz as Shaun and Ed’s annoyed housemate; Penelope Wilton is Shaun’s naive mother; and finally we have the great Bill Nighy as Shaun’s stepdad, Philip.

It’s hard to choose a highlight scene from Shaun of the Dead, since it’s basically a 100 minute movie of all great moments. But one that pops straight to mind is when Shaun and Ed first come face-to-face with one of the zombies. It’s both hilarious and shocking at the same time – just one of the many scenes in the film that mixes horror and comedy so well.

shaun of the dead still1 Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead

Shaun and Ed notice a zombie in their garden.

Despite the comedy, horror and even the romance, there’s a surprising emotional resonance to be found throughout, and particularly towards the end. If and when something horrible happens to any of the characters, we actually feel something for them – time devoted to great characterization is always a plus for when we get to the action.

The guys behind the movie (the director, stars and writers) went on to make Hot Fuzz together, an inferior but nonetheless fantastic second installment in what’s informally referred to as the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” or the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.” This is because in both SotD and HF, the two sets of lead characters (played each time by Pegg and Frost) order a Cornetto cone, which is used for comic effect. Word has it that the trio will collaborate on a third installment, which is said to be mixing into the sci-fi genre this time, after already doing horror and crime/action. That film is provisionally titled “The World’s End” and as a fan of the first two, I salivate at the thought of the next adventure.

hot fuzz simon pegg nick frost and edgar wright Horror Plus Comedy: Shaun of the Dead

Nick Frost, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg - Hot Fuzz

But I digress…

Overall, Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious and highly entertaining comedy that so perfectly merges with the horror genre, specifically the zombie sub-genre. It features extremely well-written dialogue, from characters that seem like friends of your own and who are enjoyable to watch even BEFORE and out with any of the zombie stuff. It has already become somewhat of a cult film (despite its wide popularity – similar to Donnie Darko and Office Space in that way), and it’s one that I watch pretty regularly every few months or so. I can’t get enough of it.

Well, that concludes the first installment in Screen Rant‘s first “Horror Plus” series. As stated, be sure to keep an eye out for more installments. Have you seen Shaun of the Dead? What are your thoughts on the “Rom-Com-Zom?” Any favorite lines, characters and general moments from the movie you’d like to share?

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  1. Great first pic

    The movie was as close to perfect as it gets for me. Really funny, some really dramatic scenes, some great action, and some serious gore.

    The soundtrack was also amazing.

  2. Great way to kick this off. SotD is a great movie and it’s a testament to its quality that it appealed to so many people, even those who aren’t exactly fans of the zombie genre (ie. me).

    For me, the best bit in the movie (and a real show of the Edgar Wright’s skill as a director) are the two scenes where a tired and groggy Shaun takes a walk down to his local shop. For one, it’s great that both scenes are done in one long, single shot — this allows us to wallow in all the small little details that Wright loves to put into his work. Then there’s the fact that both scenes mirror/contrast each other so well. They also act as a great way of showing how the zombie outbreak is affecting things right down to a local level, previous characters Shaun has interacted with being zombified now while Shaun remains completely oblivious. Genius.

    SotD is the only zombie movie I own and will possibly remain so for quite a while (though I have yet to see Zombieland so that could soon change).

  3. The part when the guy said “thank god” when he realised he hit a zombie made me laugh for ages

  4. i think the best part of the movie is when Shaun’s mom gets affected, not for its comedic value, but how well the characters are done that even in such a funny movie you still have seens where your heart is pulled and you really feel the characters sorrow. This is a great movie (although i think i may have liked Zombieland more)

  5. The whole part with the synchronized killing to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is my favorite part.

    The last Cornetto flavor’s green, so that’s where everybody’s getting the idea that the third movie will be sci-fi, since green is often associated with aliens. Strawberry, Red, was zombies, and Vanilla, Blue, was cops.

    I’d love it if they’d take up the alien invasion story, but I have a feeling they won’t, simply because Pegg and Frost are doing Paul.

  6. I had never much cared for zombie movies before but I loved SoTD .
    Great dialogue , great story , great actors ( and not too gory ; violence I can handle but I’m not so good with gore ).
    A really fun movie.

    I like this whole ” Horror Plus ” angle , very cool , keep it coming :)

  7. i love the part where they have to Off the Bar owner with Darts & Pool cues.
    and how they whole scene is set to
    Queens – Don’t stop me know.

  8. I remember when I saw that episode of “Spaced” and laughed hysterically. Simon Pegg’s character Tim was just on key with every hallucination. When I heard they were making “Shaun of the Dead,” I thought it would be the same. A parody of the zombies like in “Spaced” (Tim has been playing “Resident Evil” for hours when he begins to hallucinate do the ectasy he’s taken).

    But “Shaun of the Dead” is not simply a parody, but a zombie movie in its own right. In my movie collection, it’s right next to “Evil Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead.” Just like “Hot Fuzz” comes right after my “Lethal Weapon” movies.

    I would have to respectfully disagree that “Hot Fuzz” is the inferior movie, however. I know that this is partially based on the fact that I saw “Hot Fuzz” first, but I find the humor much drier and less mainstream than the jokes in “Shaun of the Dead.”

    Bill Nighy had the better cameo in “Shaun of the Dead” though. Hands down.

  9. They made a Australien Alien/zomibe movie few years back.

    Undead from 2003, it is a bad movie, but in a funny way…

  10. I loved the little things in it, like tripping over the curb on the way to the store. Not being able to shoot anything, Shaun getting hit with the darts. I think my favorite scene though is the record scene when they don’t know it yet. The records miss everytime and do nothing when they connect. It is just a brilliant movie. Love Pegg/Frost combo

  11. i also respectfully disagree that hot fuzz is inferior.
    SotD 4/5
    HF 4.5/5
    i cant wait for the next one.i love sc-fi so i think it will be great

  12. it seams the world thinks there on the sam level
    both got 8/10 on imdb

  13. What I think makes Shaun of the Dead more enjoyable than Hot Fuzz for me is 1) It’s more rewatchable – a shorter runtime and faster pace 2) There’s more of a “laid back” feeling to it – you can just put it on any time but not so with HF IMO and 3) The jokes just… connect with me a bit more.

    Don’t get me wrong, as I say, I thought Hot Fuzz was fantastic but for me, SotD is EASILY the better of the two.

  14. I’ll have to disagree Ross. Hot Fuzz was, in no way, inferior to Shaun. Equally as good and with better action.

    the splosions were bigger.

  15. ross i have to disagree. SotD is definitly rewatchable not nearly as ho fuzz. ive seen i about 6-8 times and shaun only 2-3. hot fuzz is one of h funnyist movies ever

  16. SotD was my initial exposure to Pegg et al. I’ve long been a fan of Brit-coms (that few that make it across the ocean) and of zombie flix, so my hopes were high for SotD, especially after I’d read that it was wildly popular in Britain.

    I don’t believe that I’ll ever see a film that I’ll enjoy more. In fact, I don’t have any interest whatsoever in seeing Zombieland because I couldn’t help but to compare it to SotD, forevermore the supreme zom-com.

    I could watch SotD in an endless loop forever. Every last detail about it totally captivates me, and no matter how many times I see/hear the same jokes, they still entertain me. And for a few years, I seldom played any music other than SotD’s soundtrack.

    Because of how rich SotD is in references to pre-existing zombie films, and because the film is so well done on so many levels, I’d recommend watching all of the classics–Romero’s oeuvre, the Evil Dead trilogy, and maybe even Return of the Living Dead (the first zom-com)–before watching this ultimate zombie flick.

  17. People will prefer SotD to Hot Fuzz or vice versa depending on whether they prefer zombie flix to cop flix or vice versa. I think they’re both very well done, but because I don’t enjoy cop films, I didn’t get much out of Hot Fuzz.

  18. Both films are beyond awesome, can’t wait for the third one with the aliens

  19. Agreed-both films were AWEsome!

  20. I don’t even know what to say about this movie, it is that good. Some of my favorite scenes include 1) the record chucking scene in the garden, 2) “Behavior 101″ and 3) the portion when the troupe runs across another gaggle of people, somehow eerily familiar. Just awesome.

  21. Another great Horror/Comedy is the great American Werewolf in London.

  22. @Ross

    I also think Hot Fuzz is more rewatchable. I think the mother scene kind of killed the fun of the movie, it was too much of a downer in my opinion, and the whole whacking zombies to Queen thing felt a little too drawn out in my opinion…

    But other than that, I liked both movies but thought Hot Fuzz was more entertaining, felt more “fun” all the way through, but that’s just my opinion.

  23. this was my favourite part of the film because with every beat of the song they hit the pub owner and with the darts it has the comedeic value because one hits the bar on e hits the zombie and the last one hit pegg in the head.

  24. this was my favourite part of the film because with every beat of the song they hit the pub owner and with the darts it has the comedeic value because one hits the bar on e hits the zombie and the last one hit pegg in the head.