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.

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.

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.

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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