Classic Intel: Shaun Of The Dead - DVD Review

'the affectionate and uncanny representation of suburban England at the heart of Shaun Of The Dead is, and key to its comprehensive success'

As someone who grew up in suburban London, Shaun Of The Dead holds the perhaps unlikely honour of crafting more than any other film a realistic representation of the culture and society which I call home. Unlikely indeed, considering the large amount of reanimated corpses present. But, it may surprise you to learn, it's not the zombies that make Shaun Of The Dead a film to which I can really relate to, but the misfits, misanthropes and moaners who find themselves entangled in the film's situations and the ways in which they react to them.

At the time of Shaun Of The Dead’s release, the two predominant pedlars of Britishness on film were Guy Ritchie (where everyone’s a gangster and/or cockney, wants to be a gangster and/or cockney, or gets mixed up with gangsters and/or cockneys) and Richard Curtis (where Britain is essentially a cross between Teletubbyland and a Waitrose advert). Which is what makes the affectionate and uncanny representation of suburban England at the heart of Shaun Of The Dead all the more refreshing, and is key to its comprehensive success.

The characters are multi-layered and authentic, but also undeniably and organically British. Shaun (Simon Pegg, in a flawless performance) demonstrates this superbly throughout the film, from autopiloting hung over to the newsagent oblivious to the zombie-fuelled destruction around him, to each of his plans for survival ending with either a cup of tea or a pint of beer and waiting for "all this to blow over". Shaun, in both his attitude towards and strategy for survival of the zombie plague, is relentlessly optimistic with a tendency to consciously downplay the severity of what's happening, and ultimately (and endearingly) a little bit crap.

Playing perfectly opposite Pegg, Nick Frost's Ed is essentially a mischievous little boy caught in a slobbish twenty-something man's body. Lucy Davis brilliantly creates Diane as a dippy optimist repressing her frustration with her boyfriend David, an irritating know-it-all almost entirely driven by ferocious jealousy of Shaun and played superbly by Dylan Moran, in a wild departure from his most famous role as alcoholic malcontent Bernard Black in Black Books. Penelope Wilton as Barbara, Shaun's mum, and Bill Nighy as dry stepfather Philip, artfully contribute a hybrid of "stiff upper lip" and "ignore it and it'll go away" mentalities, with Philip not wanting to make a fuss over his zombie bite as he's "run it under a cold tap", and Barbara combating the zombie threat by closing the curtains.

Thanks to a combination of writing duo Pegg and Edgar Wright's superb script, Wright's direction, and the collective cast's exceptional performances, Shaun Of The Dead is always highly original and genuine, never hackneyed nor offensive, in its portrayal of the British social psyche. Every character in the film can be related to effortlessly because you can recognise each one from some part of everyday life, from main character Shaun's underachiever and Ed's idiotic rogue, right down to those on the periphery, such as Peter Serafinowicz's belligerent killjoy Pete. Whilst some characters are more obviously likeable than others, none are clear-cut as "good guys" and "bad guys". Each character is flawed; whilst you might hate some of them for the majority of the film, you can almost always relate to their point of view.

In a perverse fashion, it is the element of Shaun Of The Dead that is most removed from the real world that acts as the catalyst in showcasing how truly special the film is in reflecting the reality of British people, and humanity in general. Through each of the characters' reactions to the dead walking the earth we see one aspect of being a 21st Century human being illuminated in a surreal, masterful and incredibly genuine way.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. I had never seen this movie until last week and really loved it. Great review.

    1. Thanks, Nostra. Glad you enjoyed the review and the film. I have to admit Shaun Of The Dead is one of my all-time favourite films; it genuinely gets better each time I watch it.