Shaun of the Dead is a "romantic comedy, with zombies". A "Rom-Zom-Com", if you will. It was directed by Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.A young man named Shaun is dumped by his girlfriend Liz because he is unmotivated and doesn't put enough effort into the relationship. Shaun decides to reform in order to win her back. His plans, however, are interrupted by the Zombie Apocalypse. He and his even more deadbeat friend, Ed, go and rescue Shaun's mother, Shaun's stepfather, Liz and Liz's annoying flatmates and take them to the safety of the local pub, The Winchester.Alternately hilarious, scary, and heartbreaking, it can be seen as either a parody of zombie movies or a romantic comedy that happens to use a Zombie Apocalypse as its setting.First part of Wright's planned "The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy", followed by Hot Fuzz and The World's End.
A British magazine published three short tie in comics that explain a few off scene events that tie up loose ends in the story, like, how did Shaun shake the zombies after leading them away from the pub? How did Ed end up in Shaun's tool shed? And what exactly happened to Dianne? These stories were inserted into the DVD complete with narrations by the characters.
Also, Mary, the zombie girl in the garden, has her own back-story which was published in 2000AD as a tie-in.
Apologetic Attacker: Shaun apologizes to his zombified mother when he prepares a mercy kill: "Sorry, mum..."
Asshole Victim: David, who's been a useless, annoying twat towards the gang, finally pushes it by goading Shaun after he just had to kill his own mum. Not too long after, he tries to leave the pub and gets ripped apart for his troubles. There's a deleted scene in which he apologizes before he dies, at least.
Bait and Switch: In the movie's opening scene, we're treated to a view of a pair of shuffling feet, while their owner groans in a zombie-like fashion. Turns out it's just Shaun, half-asleep and yawning after getting out of bed.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished - Only Shaun (who is hardly a beauty) gets really roughed up after spending the day in a pub fighting zombies. The director's commentary confirms the make-up artist specifically wanted Kate Ashfield to look clean and lovely 'til the end.
Beta Couple - Dianne and David. 'Til death do they part.
Bloody Handprint: Two of the clues of the zombie apocalypse that Shaun overlooks.
David: We should have stayed at the flat. Ed: Why didn't you? David: (pointing at Shaun) Because... because, because of... (beat) "Captain Wow."
Bittersweet Ending: Though his mum, stepdad (with whom he reconciled) and best friend turned into zombies, Shaun survived the zombie attack, got back together with his girlfriend and retrieved zombie Ed to play video games with in the shed.
Brick Joke: Shaun threw the flowers he bought for his mum into the trashcan just outside the Winchester during the first act. They're the first thing to fall out when David dumps it. Shaun's mum picks them up and notices the tag on them, figuring Shaun had bought them for her.
The Cameo: A fantastically in-jokey scene where the gang run into a very similar gang headed by Shaun's friend Yvonne (played by Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg's co-star and co-writer on Spaced). The alternative gang are all played by well-known British comedy actors (Martin Freeman from The Office, Tamsin Grieg from Black Books, Matt Lucas from Little Britain, Reece Shearsmith from The League of Gentlemen and Julia Deacon from Spaced) even though they're only on screen for seconds. Bonus points because they synchronise man-for-man with Shaun's gang. The implication is that Yvonne's the main character in a movie with a bigger budget.
Which later became a bit ironic when Martin Freeman was cast as one of the main supporting characters in The World's End, this film's second follow-up.
The Cavalry: When things are at their bleakest, the Army shows up, and blows away every Z-head in sight.
Chekhov's Gun: Literally, in the form of a Winchester rifle behind the bar that the characters mention and wonder if it works. It does.
Chekhov's Gunman: Most of the zombies appear as background characters before they become zombies (such as the groom in the shop, who reappears in Shaun's house sans an arm).
One scene has Shaun telling Yvonne they're heading to the Winchester. Cue the finale, and she's one leading the rescue cavalry to him.
Chekhov's Skill: Dianne is a failed actress, but her experience comes in handy when she has to instruct the group in pretending to be zombies.
Early on, Shaun plays on his console and Ed helps spot enemies. This is then replicated when Shaun uses the Winchester rifle while Ed is the only helpful spotter.
Cool Car: The Jag. To the point that Ed deliberately wrecks the car that he and Shaun had been using, so that they'd be forced to drive it.
Cloudcuckoolander: All throughout the movie, Barbara remains rather blithely unaware of everything that is happening around her. Halfway through the movie, however, this could be seen as her trying not to worry Shaun about the fact that she got bitten.
Cluster F-Bomb: Shaun (hilariously) drops one on Ed, after getting fed up with his constant mobile usage, in front of a zombie crowd. For their part, the zombies just stare, possibly just as surprised as everyone else at the outburst.
Pete drops one when he's woken up by Shaun and Ed's "stupid hip hop"note "It's electro, prick." four hours before he has to go to work.
Despair Event Horizon: When the last few survivors get to the Winchester's cellar and find the hatch to the street inoperable, Shaun has a Heroic BSOD, then the talk stops being about escape and starts being about ending it quickly.
Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe; Barbara is not impressed when Shaun tries to turn her against Philip by claiming "he touched me."
Shaun: ...That wasn't true. Made it up. Shouldn't have done that, sorry.
Failed a Spot Check: As a result of being severely hungover, Shaun goes to get some breakfast from the bodega across the street and utterly fails to notice the Zombie Apocalypse raging around him.
Also, when checking the street:
Ed: Are there any out there, though? Shaun: Can't see any. Maybe it's not as bad as all that. (beat) Oh, no, there they are.
Shaun tells the football kid "you're dead" and Ed says Pete's dead the next time he sees him. Guess who later turn up as zombies.
Ed's plan to cheer Shaun up after Liz dumps him perfectly mirrors the events after the zombies attack.
Barbara is complimented on her zombie impression, but reveals she was actually just not paying attention. This might be because she had just been bitten. On a similar note, look carefully at Barbara in the background in some scenes. She's wincing in pain and looking at her wrist.
When Pete is ranting at Ed for keeping him awake with his electro music, he drops the line "You want to live like an animal? Go live in the shed, you thick fuck!" When we last see Ed, he's a chained-up zombie living in Shaun's shed indefinitely.
Full Frontal Assault: Pete is completely naked as a zombie, having transformed during a shower. He shows up in the film's climax to bite Ed.
Gosh Dangit To Heck: The DVD includes an extra scene named "Funky Pete" with the swearing removed to show the film on commercial flights, with mixed success: "It's four in the funking morning!"
"What a prink!"
Green-Eyed Monster: David is not-so-secretly in love with Liz and is deeply jealous of Shaun for being with her.
Heel Face Door Slam: David, who was an asshole the entire movie, and is totally unsympathetic to Shaun having to kill his own mother, is killed rather gruesomely before he gets a chance to apologize. There was an alternate version of the scene where he's killed just after he apologizes, but the creators decided it was more shocking if he never redeemed himself. People in the test audiences cheered.
Improbable Weapon User: Played absolutely straight in that the heroes use anything they can get their hands on to fend off the zombies, starting with the use of Shaun's record collection against two zombies in his garden.
When given a Swingball to fend off a zombie, Shaun's first instinct is to use it as a Epic Flail... and the tennis ball bounces pathetically off its head. Cue Dianne and Liz making stabbing motions.
Infant Immortality: Averted through a blink-and-you-miss-it family running from their zombified mother, who proceeds to drag her son back into the house. Additionally, the football-kicking child doesn't escape zombification either.
Irony: After getting sick of constantly going to the Winchester, Liz finally breaks up with Shaun. Cue the apocalypse the next day, and Liz soon finds herself heading to the Winchester with Shaun. Even lampshaded viciously:
David: How can you trust a man you binned for being unreliable? A man whose idea of a romantic nightspot and an impenetrable fortress are the same thing?
Ironic Echo: Basically the whole first half of the movie foreshadows the second half (after the Zombie Apocalypse occurs), ranging from obvious "Next time I see him, he's dead!" to the early scene in The Winchester in which Ed - unwittingly - predicts the events of the entire movie:
"First thing tomorrow, we'll have a Bloody Mary (Kill the girl in the garden, whose name was Mary), grab a bite at the King's Head (Go get Shaun's stepfather Phil, who then was bitten on his neck by a zombie), have a couple at the Little Princess (Couple=Dave and Dianne, little princess=Liz), stagger back (Impersonate zombies), then come back to the bar for shots." (shooting scene in The Winchester.)
The scenes with Yvonne also apply, with the mention of "Surviving" and "I'm glad somebody made it".
The scene at the beginning of the movie where Ed is playing a game with Shaun giving him help. Later on in the movie(during the bar shooting scene) Ed gives the same directions to Shaun.
When Shaun first goes to the shop, he picks up a Diet Coke, changes his mind and gets a normal Coke instead. The next time, after deciding to sort his life out, he does the opposite.
In the scene where Pete rages at Ed and Shaun for their late-night music-fest:
Pete: "You want to live like an animal?! GO LIVE IN THE SHED, YOU THICK FUCK!"
Many of the shots from the TV montage during the intro are mirrored later on, such as the gameshow being replicated with zombies, and the couple on Trisha reappearing with one of them a zombie.
The gang are cut off from The Winchester by a horde of zombies (who haven't detected them yet due to an intervening fence) and they start bickering with each other out of frustration. One character says "We're not going to get out of this by moaning". Minutes later, that's exactly how they are trying to get out of it, by impersonating zombies.
Jerkass Has a Point: David preparing to shoot Barbara after it has been revealed she's been bitten, meaning she's going to become a zombie, and they have to do something before she revives and tries to kill all of them. After a rather heated and tense stand-off, Liz notes that she can understand what David is getting at, but he's still being "a twat" all the same.
Pete is still an asshole, but wouldn't you be pissed if your roommates were constantly leaving the front door open overnight and playing loud music at four in the morning when you had to work? This is arguably why Pete is an asshole, since he's clearly long gotten sick of both having Ed mooch around the place leeching off them and making it into a tip without contributing anything to the house in turn (except for a little bit bit of money he gets from selling weed) and to a lesser extent Shaun's weak-willed refusal to grow up a bit and stop enabling Ed. It's telling that Shaun's epiphany when Pete confronts him with the implication that he keeps hanging around Ed to feel less like a loser and that he should "sort your fucking life out, mate!"
Juggling Loaded Guns: A running argument between Ed and Shaun on whether or not The Winchester's namesake gun (mounted over the bar) has been deactivated:
The Load: Barbara during the Zombie Apocalypse, Barbara and Ed in the more mundane aspects of his life. Ed's uselessness is lampshaded by Pete.
Love Makes You Evil: David is at his most obnoxious when he's a) trying to drive a wedge between Shaun and Liz, b) gloating over the fact that they've split up or c) making extremely feeble denials about having a thing for Liz.
Made of Plasticine: Like a lot of zombie movies, human bodies get torn apart relatively easily.
Meaningful Background Event/ Funny Background Event: In the beginning of the film, there are many, many obvious hints of the oncoming Zombie Apocalypse, but it all takes place in the background while the main focus of the story is on Shaun's mundane, rundown life. Shaun and those around him are completely oblivious to the zombie outbreak until half an hour into the film, when Shaun and Ed finally decide to pay attention to the news reports... and only after they've unwittingly fought two zombies, wandered around an abandoned London, and obliviously think the zombies are drunkards.
Mexican Standoff: Involving a rifle, two broken bottles, and a corkscrew. And a lampshade.
Mirror Scare: Played straight, then echoed. Like everything else in the movie.
Mood Whiplash: The first half of the film is an affectionate parody/pastiche of the zombie genre, but everything goes to hell in a grocery trolley when Shaun is forced to kill his own infected mother, David is torn limb from limb and eaten by zombies, Dianne disappears, and Ed becomes a Zombie. Fortunately, Shaun and Liz manage to escape by the skin of their teeth, and Dianne is revealed in a DVD extra to have survived.
The aforementioned death and zombification of Shaun's mother takes place literally five minutes after the "Don't Stop Me Now" sequence.
Mythology Gag: "How's that for a slice of fried gold?", refers to a comment frequently made between members of the Spaced production team.
Tyres from Spaced is in the crowd of zombies around the Winchester (easily spotted because he's wearing his yellow hat and courier get-up), apparently STILL raving. And the first meeting between Shaun and Yvonne, played by Jessica Stevenson aka Daisy, refers back obliquely to their work on Spaced.
The entire Zombie episode of Spaced (where Tim hallucinates a zombie attack after getting high and playing Resident Evil 2 all night) was apparently the inspiration for the whole movie.
Including a throwaway remark about someone getting beaten to death with a pool cue.
That ice cream 'Cornetto' also appeared in Hot Fuzz as the blue 'Classico' to represent the police force, and because Shaun of The Dead is themed with blood, Shaun bought a strawberry (red) one, making this the first in the 'Cornetto' or 'Blood & Ice Cream' Trilogy. This also relates to the line "Want anything from the shop?" which appears in both films.
It's mentioned in the commentary that the location of Shaun and Ed's home is just up the road from Tim and Daisy's. They even speculate that Yvonne and Shaun are some kind of alternate universe's Tim and Daisy.
The recurring argument that Shaun and Ed often get into about the ability of dogs to look up is apparently based on an actual argument that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost had during the filming of Spaced.
The shopping trolley outside the house was also in Spaced.
Noble Shoplifter: Shaun does this unknowingly. When the entire town is deserted, he just goes about his daily business and goes to the convenience store to shop for groceries. When he notices the shopkeeper isn't there, he puts his money on the counter rather than wait for him. He notes that he doesn't quite have enough ("I owe you fifteen p."), and the shopkeeper later comes to collect the rest — unfortunately, he's a bit dead by that point...
Obstacle Exposition: Shaun plots out their every move to Ed once they've realized they're in a Zombie Apocalypse as a monologue over hilarious footage of him carrying out each act, calmly and with panache. As Ed reminds him about something else Shaun amends his previous plan to accommodate it. From then on they, of course, have trouble each step along the way.
Oh Crap: Shaun gets a big one when he turns on the lights and realizes how many zombies are outside the back door.
One Last Smoke: Shaun and Liz. Averted, as the light from the cigarette lighter reveals the controls for the escape hatch they had believed to be jammed.
Liz and Shaun also leave Ed with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Only Sane Man: Shaun, once he's convinced himself that, yes, it is zombies they're dealing with, starts to deal with it pragmatically. Everyone else seems either intent on denying the crisis, in the belief that if they just sit around this silliness will blow over, or going into hysterical and useless rants (Dave). Ed goes too far in the other direction, becoming a bit too keen putting the others in danger for thrills.
Liz also has her head screwed on fairly well throughout the movie, and In the Mexican Stand Off almost everyone else gets into at the climax she's the only one trying to act as the voice of reason by pointing out that they kind of have bigger fish to fry at the moment.
Our Zombies Are Different: Over the course of the film, it's shown that they degrade to an animal-like sentience, will still answer to their names, retain certain habits (e.g. Phillip turning off the stereo, that kid playing football, Ed playing video games), and can be trained like domesticated animals.
Played straight with "OK, John - it's time at the bar."
Precision F-Strike - Liz in the Winchester when everyone's got weapons pointed at one another:
Please can we just calm the fuck down?!
Pre-Mortem One-Liner - Subverted. Just as the zombies break into The Winchester, Shaun levels his rifle and says, "Sorry, we're closed!" but the gun jams, prompting a hysterical little squeak of panic from Shaun and several seconds of flustered flapping about from the characters before they can actually start shooting.
Played straight in one instance: when Pete throws his electro-inspired late-night tantrum and tells Ed to "go and live in the shed", Shaun tells Pete to leave Ed alone. Later on in the Winchester as Ed is getting chewed into by Zombie Pete, Shaun catches Pete's attention by screaming a single line before promptly shooting him through the eye as he advances.
Shaun: I SAID LEAVE HIM ALONE!*headshot*
Pretend We're Dead: Done by the main characters to get to the pub. Their cover is blown when Ed gets a call on his mobile.
Rant Inducing Slight: After constantly sticking up for Ed and making excuses for his oafishness and stupidity, Shaun finally snaps when Ed answers his cell phone in the middle of a zombie horde, blowing their cover. Made all the more funny because he delivers the rant while still in the middle of the zombies, who look rather nonplussed.
Shaun knocks the phone out of Ed's hand Ed: Oi! What are you doing? Shaun: What am I doing? What are you doing, you stupid moron!? Ed: Fuck off! Shaun:You fuck off! Fuck fucking off! I've spent... look at me! I've spent my entire life sticking my neck out for you and all you ever do is fuck things up! Fuck things up and make me look stupid! Well, I'm not going to let you do it any more. OK? Not today!!!
Reset Button / Status Quo Is God: Hilariously subverted. There are still zombies all over the place at the end of the film, only they've now become a part of every day life and life goes on pretty much as it did before.
Rule of Three: "Glad somebody made it" and "Dogs can't look up", especially, although there's several other examples.
Separated by a Common Language: Averted. Shaun says that Mary the zombie is "so drunk" instead of the more British "so pissed" to avoid confusing American audiences, as "pissed" more commonly means "angry" in the USA.
Played straight with the trope naming line, "...the 'zed' word." Across the pond it would have been pronounced, "the 'zee' word."
Two other news reports muddy the waters via their own shout outs: one talks about radiation from a downed satellite in reference to Night of the Living Dead, and another blames GM crops in reference to the agricultural experiments from the obscure Italian flick Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.
Funnily enough, George Romero himself actually missed this one on his first viewing, as Edgar Wright discovered when he excitedly asked what Romero had thought of the line.
In addition, their game of choice at the beginning was Time Splitters 2. Free Radical reciprocated by putting some references in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect.
There's also the rather appropriate use of the first few chords of "Ghost Town", by The Specials at the start of the film?
Day of the Dead is first replicated with David being torn in half by zombies (though he never says "Choke on 'em!"), and Shaun and Liz ascend in the freight elevator at the end exactly the same way as the ending of Day.
Also, the shot of a half-awake Shaun's shadow entering the screen before we pan up to his face, mirroring the first shot of a zombie in Day.
A subtle shout-out to the Evil Dead series after Shaun discovers Pete zombified in the shower: as he backs away in terror, he babbles "We were wondering if you'd like to (beat) join us?"
Another subtle Evil Dead shout-out appears when Shaun arrives at work and briefly mentions a co-worker named "Ash" who called in sick that day.
The name of the electronics store where Shaun works is called Foree Electronics, after Ken Foree, the lead actor from the original Dawn of the Dead. The restaurant where Shaun and Liz are supposed to have dinner early in the movie is called Fulci's, after Zombi 2 director Lucio Fulci.
In the scene where Shaun and Ed try to use LPs as a weapon against a zombie, Ed brings up The Stone Roses' Second Coming, to which Shaun protests "I like it!". This is a reference to the infamous debate over whether the Darker and EdgierNew Sound AlbumSecond Coming is as good an album as the Roses' self-titled debut.
Every Romero zombie film has included at least one completely nude zombie. Shaun honors that quota.
Similar Squad: The gang meet up what appear to be a group undergoing the same plot but with a slightly more expensive cast. Each of the gang's double actually corresponds to a comedy double they'd shared in the past. Like Pegg and Frost, Jessica Hynes worked on Spaced, Martin Freeman worked with Lucy Davis on The Office and Tasmin Greig worked with Dylan Moran on Black Books.
Soul Fragment: A personality quirk or two survives the zombification process. Examples include the football kid continuing to play football, several people working menial jobs before the outbreak continuing in those jobs after zombification, and Ed living in the shed after being zombified, still playing video games
Suspiciously Apropos Music: In the pub at the start, just after Shaun has broken up with his girlfriend and the jukebox begins playing "If You Leave Me Now". Lampshaded as Ed says "Who the hell put this on?" "It's on random." "Oh, for fuck's sake!"
The same gag is Ironic Echoed later on in a spot of Soundtrack Dissonance: The jukebox in the pub, now facing an onslaught of zombies, randomly picks Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now".
Shaun: Augh-! Who the hell put this on?! Ed: It's on random! Liz: Oh, for fuck's sake! Shaun: David! Kill the Queen! David: What?! Shaun: THE JUKEBOX!
Speaking of appropriate zombie-bashing tunes, this combines with a Shout Out after Shaun drives off relieved that he only ran over a zombie. The first line out of the stereo when he starts the car again is "I think my head is gonna explode!" ... from the song Meltdown, by Northern Irish band Ash.
Take That: The L Ps that Shaun is willing to destroy to fight Mary. Wright and Pegg don't think too much of the Batman soundtrack, apparently.
There Was A Door round the back of The Winchester, so David didn't need to smash the front window.
Too Dumb to Live: Ed's stupidity also makes him The Millstone, as he repeatedly endangers the group by utterly failing to comprehend the concept of "danger." Shaun's mother should also be mentioned. Would you like some tea and sandwiches?
Shaun himself also fits this. What exactly made the Winchester any safer than Liz's apartment? While it's got big heavy doors and a rifle on the wall and Ed knows where all the exits are (and he can smoke), they actually probably would have been safer in the apartment, because the window was above ground level (Shaun could climb up to it, but he wasn't a zombie) and you couldn't even get into the building without being buzzed in. Even if the zombies somehow got in through that door, they could have barricaded the apartment door fairly easily. But they also wouldn't have had half so much booze.
Let's not forget David standing right in front of the pub window, seconds before he gets eaten.
Frankly, the entire group lives and breathes this trope, making stupid decision after stupid decision, but Ed really is the king.
Trailers Always Lie: The trailers tended to play up the comedic aspects and downplay or ignore the more serious and horrific elements.
Undeath Always Ends: Subverted, zombie Ed not only 'lives' on as a zombie at the end, but is rather poignantly no worse off than when he was alive... Shaun keeps him in the garden shed playing video-games!
Indeed, this is true for all the zombies that weren't killed during the crisis, as society managed to adapt and utilize the undead for their own purpose, roping them into reality TV shows, menial labour and chat shows, among other things.
The Unreveal: A very much in the background radio broadcast near the beginning of the film would imply that something from a downed US satellite caused the zombies. When Shaun is watching television at the end of the film, a news program says that the theorized cause was "use of"...something. Shaun changes the channel a moment too early.
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: There's some level of social observation, and the apparent suggestion that in 21st century Britain many people live life in an unthinking, zombie-like state - the introductory footage of everyday life at the film's beginning, Shaun and Ed's first few zombie encounters - in which they fail to notice anything unusual going on, and the ending, where society becomes completely desensitized to violence, and Ed lives on, undead and tied up in the shed. Creepy.
Wicked Stepmother: Shaun sees his step-dad like this, though in fact it turns out that Phillip thought Shaun had it in him to really make something of himself with enough motivation and was simply applying Tough Love.
And it has to be said that Shaun wasn't exactly the perfect stepson. One incident that stands out is Shaun claiming Phillip attacked him with a lump of wood for leaving a Mars bar in the glove compartment of his Jag, but it's actually revealed later that Shaun calling Phillip a motherfucker might have had something to do with it as well.