First off, what a title, eh? An amusing riff on George A Romero's classic zombie film Dawn Of The Dead, itself remade this year.
So what's it about then? Well it's about Shaun, who works as an electrical shop manager in North London, has problems committing to his girlfriend Liz and has a best friend Ed who is a total loser and a slob to boot. Oh and it's about zombies - lots of zombies!
One night Shaun has a row with his girlfriend after he forgets to book a fancy restaurant for their anniversary dinner. She dumps him and he ends up in the local pub with Ed, who does his best to cheer him up. Shaun heads home and notices that things during the day have been a little weird; tramps trying to eat pigeons, people biting each other and strange news reports. He wakes up the next day and hey presto, nearly everyone is now the living dead! But Shaun made a vow the night before to set things straight with his girlfriend and get his life in order, so he decides to rescue her and get her to the only safe place he knows; the pub. But he has the living dead to contend with first . . .
If any of you saw the excellent Channel 4 sitcom Spaced in the last few years then you will recognise most of the cast in this new British film from Working Title. It was written by Spaced star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright (also directing here) and was touted around as an idea when they did an episode of the sitcom based around the Playstation game Resident Evil 2. Why not do an old school British zombie film and make it funny thought Pegg, and now we can all enjoy this mad, bad and very funny film.
Let's just say that I was worried that this film might suck, but wow, it rocks! The zombies are old school slow and lumbering, keeping with Romero's idea, and not updated like Danny Boyle's in 28 Days Later or in the new Dawn Of The Dead remake. This enables the cast to have fun with them: They run them over; throw records, pots and pans at them; burn them; hit them with cricket bats, tennis balls and glasses - all too great comic effect.
Pegg is brilliant as Shaun; he holds the whole film together and keeps it ticking over at a great pace. Nick Frost is great as Ed (Shaun's mate); creating a believable slob that most people will identify and sympathise with. Kate Ashfield plays Liz (Shaun's girlfriend) with enough seriousness and conviction that the audience believes they are a couple and really do care for each other.
The rest of the cast is filled out with a current who's who of British comedy talent: Bill Nighy (Shaun's step dad) who loves his Jaguar more than Shaun, Lucy Davis (The Office) as Liz's best mate Dianne – a hippy drama teacher who comes in handy near the end of the film but is pretty useless throughout and Dylan Moran (from Black Books) as Dianne's fella – full of snide remarks and criticisms, as he secretly loves Liz. Also scattered throughout the films are cameos from many faces that fans will recognise from British TV that only add to Shaun Of The Dead.
The pace drags a little mid-film but there are enough one liners and great comedy moments to bridge this until it picks up again. One stand out scene is Shaun's rescue of Liz from her flat; he smacks zombies round the head with his trusty cricket bat and pushes the stupid things over with great zeal. This culminates in the group all cramming into Shaun's step dad's Jaguar while zombies try and catch them.
Overall the film is a hoot; very British in its comedy but with enough good acting and set pieces to pick up an audience abroad. Edgar Wright makes the jump from TV director to film easily, proving himself to have a big future ahead. He handles both character and action scenes with equal skill. The writing is also spot on from Pegg and Wright, with great snappy dialogue, many quotable lines and enough in-jokes to make any zombie film fan happy. The first must see 'British zombie rom com' this year. Do not miss this and support a great British film.
:: Mark Cappuccio