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Shaun Of The Dead
cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, and Lucy Davis

director: Edgar Wright

96 minutes (15) 2004 widescreen 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
The first 'zom-rom-com', Shaun Of The Dead has been publicised as Spaced 'the movie' but, in reality, its casting draws from other British sitcoms like The Office and Black Books as well as including a few 'proper actors' - as Simon Pegg puts it in the DVD commentary.

Shaun Of The Dead is unashamedly a zombie movie in the Romero tradition. The film works well as a straight zombie film, relying on its characters for jokes rather than going for cheap spoofy laughs at the genre's expense. There's even a sideswipe at Danny Boyle's refusal to use the z-word about 28 Days Later.

As with all zombie films, Shaun has three parts: the arrival of the zombies, the attempts to find safety and the ultimately unavoidable downbeat ending. Shaun follows this simple but effective plot structure but manages to not breed contempt despite its familiarity due to the appeal of its characters and the quality of the jokes.

While director Edgar Wright never lets the comedy overshadow the zombie-goodness there are a number of set pieces (you'll never listen to Queen in the same way again!) and pieces of dialogue that are simply inspired and eminently quotable (as all good genre comedies should be). The cast are very much an ensemble, playing off against each other perfectly despite Nick Frost's fantastic Ed getting most of the good lines.

This film is also incredibly British. The setting, Crouch End, is a more authentic rendition of London than any film I have ever seen (especially the ethnically cleansed Notting Hill and Lewisham of Richard Curtis' work), its central theme is also very British. Whereas for Romero, the zombies serve as a metaphor for rampant commercialism (people going to the mall months after they die), in Shaun it is Shaun himself that is the zombie, sleepwalking through life without a career, without a serious commitment to his girlfriend and without letting go of childhood friends no matter how much they hold him back. This gives Shaun a nice self-deprecating edge, as its stars are ultimately horribly normal people rather than heroes fighting to defend themselves against the hordes of normality.

Shaun works both as a comedy and as a zombie film and its success stems from an evident love of the source material (as was the case with recent British werewolf movie Dog Soldiers). The DVD gives us numerous amusing and enlightening commentary tracks, as well as comics that address the film's plot holes. It also has teasers, trailers, video diaries, outtakes, gag reels, a comic poster and hilarious footage from the censored version of the film they show on long-haul flights ("You Funking Prink!"). As the DVD box itself says, it's groaning with extras.

This film is an absolute gem.
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