In its own peculiar way, "Shaun of the Dead" is as faithful a remake of 1978's "Dawn of the Dead" as was this past summer's official "Dawn of the Dead" remake.
A strong case could also be made that this cheeky horror comedy is a sequel to last year's smash hit "28 days later. . . ." (There's a quick line of dialogue near the end that lends credence to the theory.)
And although it is a comedy, "Shaun of the Dead" is nearly as gory as those films. And it's pretty foul-mouthed and crude at times. In other words, it's definitely not for all audiences.
Yet, despite all this, it's frequently laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly scary. Consequently, it's a real breath of fresh air for horror fans, especially after so many recent efforts have been so stale.
The film's title refers to Shaun (Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script), an aimless, twentysomething electronics salesman who's content to spend his nights in the local pub with his even-less-motivated pal Ed (Nick Frost). However, Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) has had enough of that routine and decides to dump him. And things are about to get decidedly worse for our despondent hero. Thanks to some sort of catastrophe, most of London's population has turned into bloodthirsty, flesh-eating zombies.
At first, Shaun and Ed don't even notice. But once they do, they snap into action, dispatching a couple of the slow-moving undead. And emboldened by their success, they hatch a desperate plan to rescue Liz and Shaun's imperiled mother (Penelope Wilton). But once they do, there's still a question about finding a safe place to hide. True to form, Ed suggests the pub.
The humor here is very British. And not all of it works. There are at least a couple of dead spots or places when it gets too pardon the pun deadly serious. But when it's successful, the spoofing and goofing here is hysterical.
The makeup effects are grisly and convincing, and rarely does the film betray its relatively low-budget roots. Co-screenwriter/director Edgar Wright also keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, which is a wise decision.
Of course, he also benefits from having such a likable central character. As Shaun, Pegg is very believable. As are his relationships with the various other characters particularly with Bill Nighy, as his stepfather.
"Shaun of the Dead" is rated R for scenes of strong horror violence (zombie attacks, beatings and shootings), some graphic gore, frequent use of strong sexual profanity and crude sexual slang terms, brief drug content (references to drug use and dealing), and use of some racial epithets. Running time: 99 minutes.