A Comedy With Guts

They have ghastly pale complexions. They have horrific jaws that can tear you apart in seconds. They appear human, but are really just soulless shells or vacant bodies. They are British people. And they’re being attacked by zombies.

“Shaun of the Dead” stars co-writer Simon Pegg as the titular Shaun, a 30 year-old loser who spends his days selling home appliances and his nights at the same dive pub. His girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), fed up with Shaun’s lack of direction, dumps him while his couch potato roommate Ed (Nick Frost) only makes the situation worse. The best advice Nick can offer to the deeply depressed Shaun is that, “It’s not the end of the world.” But Nick is dead wrong. Before sunrise, Shaun finds his hometown being overrun with flesh-eating zombies. With the apocalypse on the horizon, Shaun fears for his own pathetic existence. But can the world’s most apathetic, heartbroken man find the ambition to save the ones he loves?

“Shaun” does well in its attempt to satisfy those both looking for laughs and gore, though it has plenty of the former and seems to have lacked the budget for the latter. With a handful of “gotcha!” scares and a decent amount of carnage (with one disemboweling being particularly memorable), the film is primarily a comedic effort. Skewering some of the clich?s that have characterized the undead genre (listen in the final scene for a nod to Danny Boyle’s other recent British zombie film “28 Days Later”), “Shaun” occasionally wades into the territory that it appears to be lampooning. But these minor missteps are easily forgiven in light of the audacious story choices the writers make toward the end of the film. Beneath the comedic focal point lies a couple of tersely written character relationships that are both strained and strengthened by the zombie invasion.

Pegg and Frost nail their comedic roles not only on an individual level, but also as a team. Even with such an outlandish premise, their friendship still feels real, which serves to drive the comedy. The rest of the supporting cast also does an admirable job, including the pretty Kate Ashfield as the exacerbated Liz and the doe-eyed Penelope Wilton as Shaun’s oblivious but loving mother, Barbara. “Shaun of the Dead” ends up being an amiable flick that succeeds by being as unsophisticated as its lead characters.

“Shaun of the Dead” comes alive in theaters Friday.

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