A zombie epic from the land of 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'
Poor Shaun has been busted. He's a lousy boyfriend whose idea of a romantic night out is a trip to the same pub he haunts seven nights a week. His girlfriend has had it, and is laying down the law in front of their best friends. "Things'll change," Shaun pleads. "I promise."
The next day, things have changed. The dead are walking the earth.
The first specimen of the ZomRomCom genre, or "Zombie Romantic Comedy," Shaun of the Dead skips along atop those genre-separating fences without losing its footing. It's easily one of the most entertaining things to hit screens in recent years, a movie that shows just how fine a line distinguishes family drama and flesh-eating, or meet-cute romance and post-apocalyptic survivalism.
The central joke of the movie is as funny as it is obvious: Shaun and those around him, sleepwalking through numbingly normal lives, might as well be zombies; when the plague does start, it takes quite a while for Shaun to notice the difference.
The movie - whose director and stars are famous in England for an innovative TV comedy called Spaced - displays a remarkable sense of timing and nuance. The screenplay avoids the easy jokes, like winks to the audience, pop-culture references, and gory puns, and goes for laughs based on the very human responses of its characters to a set of fantastic circumstances. In fact, whenever the characters try to act like action heroes, they fall flat; if Shaun delivers some "Hasta la vista, baby" sort of one-liner, you can bet it'll backfire on him.
A zombie renaissance has swept the film world in the last year or two, with such cool gorefests as 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. The resurgence has (ahem) some life still left in it, hopefully, but it's hard to see how anyone could hope to beat Shaun at its own game. •
By John DeFore