- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

What’s the difference between the actual dead and the living dead? The living dead drink beer and play video games. And…not much more than that.

That’s the idea of Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead,” a zombie spoof with real laughs and satirical smarts that, despite its proximity to the recent remake of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” has already scored big in the United Kingdom.

The laughs come at the expense of modern slacker culture, but the satire is gentle. When forced by crisis, even slackers have it in them to save the day.

Shaun (Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the movie) is an appliance store salesman stiff in North London. He spends way too much time quaffing pints at Winchester’s pub and, when not there, logs hours on the Sony Playstation with fat friend Ed (Nick Frost), the kind of housemate who’s terminally useless but too harmless to hate.

You can’t even say Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), is a nag: All she wants is an occasional date in a restaurant that takes reservations. Is that asking so much?

The lazy lad never gets the chance to shape up of his own free will, as London is taken over by an army of albinotic-eyed zombies.

The clever thing is, Shaun and Ed are in a quasi-catatonic state of their own. They flip past panicked news reports on television and fail to notice that there are, uh, dead bodies brushing against them and splattering blood on their shirts.

Mr. Wright sends up the passivity of Shaun’s morning routine in an ingenious string of scenes run once without, and again with, the slow-hoofing zombies.

He’s oblivious. Stoned on stolidity.

Once the dead have, so to speak, dawned on Shaun, he springs into action. The up-to-his-old-self plan is illogical — leave the safety of home and get to Winchester’s — but, hey, it’s proactive.

It also involves rescuing dear old mum (Penelope Wilton) and possibly killing stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy), whom Shaun has always had it in for and who may have gone zombie.

“Shaun” has delirious fun with B-antics such as the “zombie walk” and the inevitable spilling of guts. Actually, guts aren’t just spilled here; they’re sliced, stretched, diced and munched.

Mr. Wright and Mr. Pegg add deft new touches of their own as well, including a patented zombie-defeating method — hurtling vinyl albums at them — that sets up a bedeviling dilemma for music-buff Shaun.

Dire Straits, the Stone Roses? Chuck ‘em. New Order’s “Blue Monday”? No way.

The movie also serves up touching moments of romance and male bonding. It’s highly atypical: a horror mocker with brains and heart, blood and guts.

The only thing missing was a joke cameo from Mr. Romero himself.

***

TITLE: “Shaun of the Dead”

RATING: R (Zombie gore and violence; profanity)

CREDITS: Directed by Edgar Wright. Produced by Nira Park. Written by Mr. Wright and Simon Pegg. Cinematography by David M. Dunlap. Score by Dan Mudford and Pete Woodhead.

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes.

WEB SITE: www.shaunofthedeadmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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