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Film / Shaun of the Dead

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"You've got red on you."

Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 "romantic comedy with zombies" — a "RomZomCom", if you will — directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Wright and Pegg.

A young man named Shaun (Pegg) is dumped by his girlfriend Liz because he lacks motivation and doesn't put enough effort into the relationship. Shortly after Shaun decides to reform in order to win her back, his plans are interrupted by the Zombie Apocalypse. In the wake of the mounting chaos, he and his even more deadbeat friend Ed (Frost) embark on a daring journey to rescue Shaun's mother and stepfather, as well as Liz and her annoying flatmates, and take them to the safety of the local pub, The Winchester.

Alternately hilarious, scary, and heartbreaking, the film can be seen as either a parody of zombie movies or a romantic comedy that happens to use a zombie apocalypse as its setting.

The film is the first part of Wright's Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, followed by Hot Fuzz and The World's End.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Playground: The group comes across one of these on their way to the Winchester.
  • Action Survivor: Most members of the group survive by sheer luck, although Shaun and Liz stand out in particular.
  • An Aesop:
    • No matter what else is going on in your life or how big a rut you're in, making empty promises will sour people's opinions of you and you'll have to work damn hard to regain that trust.
    • During times of emergency, do exactly what the authorities tell you to do. Instead of staying put at home as the news urged them, Shaun and Ed decide to stick it to the man and lead a group of people to survive on their own, only to fail utterly and have to be bailed out by the very-much-alive military in the end.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Shaun's mum, Barbara, calls him "pickle" in a few scenes and Diane calls David "Daffs". Both nicknames are later used towards their counterparts in an antagonizing manner during the Mexican Standoff after Barbara dies.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • 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.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked in-universe, as Shaun and Ed make up stories about the barflies, casting them in roles like mobsters and ex-prostitutes.
  • AM/FM Characterization:
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Ed gets turned into a at the end.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • Shaun apologizes to his zombified mother when he prepares a mercy kill: "Sorry, mum..."
    • Played for laughs when Shaun and Ed are planning how to rescue their friends and families. Philip, Shaun's stepdad dies in all three iterations of the plan, with the apology getting less and less sincere with each iteration.
      Shaun (First iteration): I'm so sorry, Phillip.
      Shaun (Second iteration): Sorry Phillip.
      Shaun (Third iteration): Sorry~!
  • Appeal to Obscurity: When Shaun claims that Ed can be funny sometimes, Pete acknowledges one time... that happened five years ago.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • David was indifferent towards Shaun being forced to kill his zombified mother, tries to kill Shaun when he rightfully retaliates, and is just a general asshole. Reportedly, test audiences actually cheered when the zombies disembowel him.
    • Downplayed with Pete and Ed. The former's dickish attitude was largely provoked rather than generally part of his character, while the latter is still fairly likable despite his vulgarity. Either way, the two of them end up turning into zombies by the end of the film.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Used a few times, once by Ed and another using the TV.
  • Arc Number: Minor example, but 29. Shaun is 29 years old, and at the film's climax, the group only has 29 bullets to hold off the zombies with.
  • Arc Words: "You've got red on you".
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The group's zombie imitation during the Pretend We're Dead scene is very amateurish but gets the job done. That said, Shaun's act looks quite convincing as pointed out by Ed.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: When Shaun discovers that Pete has turned, Pete merely stares at him and makes no effort to attack until Shaun says he and Ed are borrowing his car. Based on what Ed says as Shaun is fleeing down the stairs, Ed having anything to do with Pete's car was a big no-no while he was alive.
  • Beta Couple: Dianne and David. And they're not a happy couple either. It ends when David gets devoured by the horde and Dianne disappears into them trying to save him (and apparently she survives!).
  • Big "NO!": First yelled by both Shaun and Liz when they see Ed win the jackpot on The Winchester's slot machine. Later screamed by Shaun in despair as he sees Ed get bitten by Zombie!Pete.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head:
    David: We should have stayed at the flat.
    Ed: Why didn't you?
    David: [pointing at Shaun] Because... because, because of... [Beat] "Captain Wow."
  • Bilingual Bonus: During the second "walk to the shop" sequence, as Shaun gets inside the cheerful Indian music on the radio is suddenly interrupted by a rather frantic-sounding person urgently delivering what sounds like a rather important message about what's going on that Shaun might want to listen to... except it's in untranslated, unsubtitled Hindi. Of course, even the most lazy viewer has probably picked up enough of the Meaningful Background Events in that particular sequence to figure out exactly what the message is...
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though his mother, stepfather (with whom he reconciled) and best friend have turned into zombies and he was forced to perform a Mercy Kill on his mother, Shaun survives the zombie attack, gets back together with his girlfriend and keeps zombie Ed in the shed to play video games with.
    • Also in the Plot Hole Extra, Dianne revealed to have survive the zombie hordes, but has since moved in with her aunt and is now on a Christmas card relationship with Shaun and Liz.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Though not the first character to die, Nelson, the Hindi store owner, is the first person of color who we see has become a zombie.
  • Blatant Lies: "Two seconds!"
  • Bloody Handprint: Two of the clues of the zombie apocalypse that Shaun overlooks.
  • Bloody Hilarious: After all, it is a Black Comedy featuring zombies.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Shaun and Liz plan this at the climax, but The Cavalry saves them.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Shaun uses Ed's "two seconds" before he visits Ed's zombie in the shed.
  • Brick Joke: A lot.
    • Shaun visits the local convenience store just after the Zombie Apocalypse begins (without his noticing). He doesn't find the shopkeeper there, but he yells out that he came up short and will pay him back. Not long later he's surrounded by zombies. One of them is the shopkeeper who has his palm turned up as if to say "You owe me money".
    • 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.
    • At first, Shaun fails at climbing Liz's balcony, but later during the Zombie Apocalypse, he successfully pulls the stunt.
    • Shaun and Ed debating on whether the rifle (a Winchester, natch) at The Winchester is a real gun or not. "Big Al," (who is mentioned, but never seen in the film) claims it is, but also claims dogs can't look up. It turns out the rifle is a real one and perfectly functional.
      Shaun: But dogs can look up!
    • The front door is open, again!
    • While Shaun and Ed were D Jing at 4am, Pete comes in, taking one of the disks and chucks it out the window. Hours later, while Shaun and Ed are dealing with a pair of zombies near their house, Ed spots the same disk nearby and chucks it at them.
    • A more literal one than most:
      Shaun: That was the second album I ever bought!
    • "Player 2 has entered the game."
    • We find out near the start that Ed sells a bit of weed every now and again. When someone named Noodle rings up at exactly the wrong time, one wonders what Ed means when he says he's got nothing.
    • Shaun puts on his nametag and closes the mirror and sees Pete is behind him. Later on, he removes his nametag and closes the mirror and sees zombie Pete's shadow on the shower curtain.
    • Many of the zombies seen individually are shown before they turned earlier in the movie.
    • The following conversation between Shaun and Ed takes place twice in the movie, once while Ed is playing video games and once (with roles reversed) while Shaun is shooting actual zombies:
      Shaun: Top Left... reload.
      Ed: I'm on it.
      Shaun: Nice shot.
      Ed: Thanks.
    • "Cock it!"
    • The bungie cord game show which Shaun says he doesn't know returns at the end, with the contestants replaced by zombies.
    • All of the other TV shows seen earlier on also come back with zombies.
    • "I'm going to the shed."
    • "I said leave him alone!"
    • "Fuck-a-doodle-doo!"
    • "Sorry, we're closed."
    • "How's that for a slice of fried gold?"
  • Butt-Monkey: Shaun, David, and Pete get the worst of these moments. David and Pete die.
  • 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 (UK) note , Tamsin Grieg from Black Books, Matt Lucas from Little Britain, Reece Shearsmith from The League of Gentlemen and Julia Deakin from Spaced) even though they're only on screen for seconds. They synchronise man-for-man with Shaun's gang. The implication is that Yvonne's the main character in a movie with a much higher budget, or at least with a smarter lead character.
    • All of the TV presenters & news reporters seen when Shaun's flipping through the channels are actual TV presenters & news reporters from the UK. Coldplay also appear briefly in the sequence at the end of the film being interviewed. Chris Martin also cameos as a zombie outside the Winchester when Shaun and Liz escape, the one moving very slowly at the right of the screen.
    • One of the zombies outside The Winchester looks an awful lot like (and is) Bill Bailey
    • A zombified Tyres (the drugged-up courier from Spaced) is among the zombies that Shaun leads away from the Winchester, technically also counts as Death by Cameo.
  • Catchphrase: Ed always says "two seconds" before he does something that will take quite a bit of time.
  • The Cavalry:
    • When things are at their bleakest, Yvonne and the Army show up, and blow away every zombie in sight.
    • The British Army arrives at the climax and mops up the zombies. It's implied that they crushed the outbreak in London in a single day.
  • Central Theme: No matter how long you stagnate or try to hold on to the past, life moves forward. There are times where you have to let go of the things that hold you back and step outside your comfort zone.
  • Chekhov's Gag: When Shaun first encounters Pete as a zombie, he nervously stammers out that Pete's welcome to join everyone at the Winchester if he feels better. Pete shows up, but he's not feeling better that's for sure.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Literally, in the form of a Winchester rifle that's behind the bar that the characters mention and wonder if it works. It does.
    • "That's the second album I've ever bought!"
    • The car's child locks first annoy Shaun but later prove to be a life saver when they help keeping the zombified step-dad arrested in the car. Though they do briefly almost get him, David and Dianne killed by zombified Philip in the first place when they're unable to get out to safety themselves.
    • The pack of cigarettes that Shaun left at Liz' place and which pop up again at the end to be used for One Last Smoke.
  • 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 the one leading the rescue cavalry to him.
    • Pete is a Chekhov's Gunman and a Chekhov's Boomerang: Not only does he become a zombie and try to kill Shaun, but he also returns for the final battle at the Winchester, infecting Ed. His very reappearance is enough to earn a Precision F-Strike from Shaun.
    • Several military trucks full of soldiers are seen in the news and in the background responding to the crisis early on. One such truck full of soldiers saves Shaun and Liz at the end, with the soldiers massacring the zombies effortlessly and without any casualties.
  • 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.
    • Subverted with Ed. His ego-shooter skills are shown to be excellent. However, he is not able to transfer this skill into real life when being handed a rifle to protect the group from zombies at the pub.
  • 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" four hours before he has to go to work.
      • Hilariously Averted by the "clean" version of that scene which appears in the DVD extras and replaces "fuck" and "prick" with "funk" and "prink".
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: This is an Edgar Wright comedy, but it tugs at the heartstrings when Shaun is forced to kill his zombified mother.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation;
    • 2000 AD did a single-issue prequel called There's Something About Mary, focusing on the Mary zombie from Shaun's back garden.
    • IDW Publishing did a four-issue adaptation of the movie.
  • Coming of Age Story: The late bloomer variety for Shaun. Shaun has to grow out of his stagnation in order to mature and find motivation without the safety net of his parents to fall back on. He also learns that his parents were never perfect as they were people too and equally flawed. In the end, he finally matures but at the cost of his childhood friend and parents. He finally takes the next step with Liz and takes responsibility for himself.
  • Commander Contrarian: David, who does very little but naysay Shaun's ideas. He's quite often got a point, but he's still not good at offering any constructive alternatives or keeping people's morale up.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster seen in the page image above shows Shaun on an Underground train full of zombies. The Underground isn't seen at all in the film (although the stations appear in Deleted Scenes) It's meant to convey the theme of people such as Shaun living their lives like zombies before the zombie outbreak occurs.
  • 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.
  • Cool Guns: The Winchester rifle, after which the pub is named, is given a huge amount of reverence in universe by Ed. And with good reason, because it's loaded and functional, making it extremely useful during the climax.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Once someone becomes a zombie, their eye colour changes to a very pale blue, which only makes them look more disturbing.
  • Cultural Translation: Despite changing the genre to a Romantic Comedy, the plot ticks most tropes of your average Zombie Apocalypse movie except for the settling being a residential neighborhood in London instead of Everytown, America. The most evident consequence is that guns are incredibly hard to come by for the characters and they are replaced by improvised blunt objects.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Zombies vs soldiers at the end. The zombies are wiped out, with the soldiers suffering a total of zero casualties.
  • Dangerous Windows: When David foolishly stands with his back right against a window, and (predictably, considering his recent actions) the zombies break through and pull him out to eat him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: David.
  • Death Glare: Barbara levels one at Shaun after he tries to claim that Phillip molested him as a child.
  • Death of a Child: Seen 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.
    • The Winchester patron with metal pointed boots is eaten by a pack of zombie children, and there is another little zombie girl among a group waiting to cross the road.
  • Deconstruction: Being an example of a zombie movie before the likes of running zombies and Zombieland, the film pokes fun of the Zombie Apocalypse and the metaphors it tries to represent. Since zombies are supposed to be like flanderized human beings, the slowly encroaching zombie invasion goes completely unnoticed by the main characters until they become unavoidable, the manifesting zombies being confused for drunkards, junkies and crazy homeless people. Since zombies are slow and stupid, the main cast tend to be more caught up with their personal issues than the immediate threat and are able to fool the zombies into ignoring them by pretending to be zombies themselves. While society collapsed due to how sudden the numerous zombies are, by the end the army shows up, disposes of the horde and the film ends with society back to the way it was, zombies being used as cheap labor, entertainment and pets for their still-human loved ones.
  • Defiant to the End: After Barbara succumbs to her infection and turns into a zombie, her last act before Shaun puts her down is to snarl at David when he speaks up.
  • 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.
  • Devoured by the Horde: Before he can apologize to Shaun for a rude comment after Shaun has just had to execute his zombified mother and trying to shoot him in a fit of anger, David is torn apart by zombies reaching through the Winchester's glass windows. Attempting to pull him back in, his girlfriend ends up holding his leg and using said leg to beat her way into the zombie horde to rescue him.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After risking their lives to break into the Winchester, tension immediately flares up among the group when it becomes obvious how unsafe their shelter is.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Yvonne seems to be one for Shaun. (See The Cameo above)
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Shaun and Liz's reaction to Ed winning the Jackpot on the noisy slot machine (see Nice Job Breaking It, Hero below).
    [Ed boots up the slot machine and it plays a loud Jackpot tune upon Ed winning it]
    Shaun and Liz: ED NOOOOO!!!!!
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: David on Shaun's mum in the pub.
  • Draw Aggro: Shaun draws off a huge crowd of zombies before they can break into the group's bolthole by running off and screaming to get their attention.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Barbara is not impressed when Shaun tries to turn her against Phillip by claiming "he touched me."
    Shaun: ...That wasn't true. Made it up. Shouldn't have done that, sorry.
  • Dwindling Party: By the end of the movie, only two of the eight team members are still alive.note 
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Shaun is given one by his dying step-dad.
  • Easily-Overheard Conversation: Liz calls Dianne and David "a failed actress and a twat" (albeit quoting Shaun) while both are in earshot. In fact, they're sitting at the same table as them.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: A Brick Joke is an argument between Shaun and Ed whether or not the rifle at the Winchester is real. The owner says it is, but he also says dogs can't look up. After the rifle fires, proving Ed right...
    Shaun: Alright. But dogs can look up!
  • Establishing Character Music: The main characters are introduced in the Winchester to "Ghost Town" by The Specials.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Parodied. The flatmates Shaun, Ed and Pete and respectively Liz, Di and David went to school together.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • As a result of being severely hungover, Shaun goes to get some breakfast from the off licence 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.
    • Neither Shaun or Ed really notice that the world is coming to an end around them, that the guy shambling towards them outside the pub is a zombie and not a drunk, or that the girl in the garden is actually undead until they accidentally put a huge hole right through her guts and she shrugs it off.
  • Foreshadowing: So very, very much, once you know where to look... See Ironic Echo below.
    • According to Word of God in the DVD commentary, when Ed attempts to cheer Shaun up at the Winchester with plans of binge drinking, he is actually summarizing the events of the next day (Z-day) entirely in drinking references.
      "First thing tomorrow, we'll have a Bloody Marynote , grab a bite at the King's Head note , have a couple at the Little Princess note , stagger back, note , stab the monkey note  then come back to the bar for shots."note 
    • Pete warns Ed to stop leaving the front door open. Guess what uses it as a way in later?
    • 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.
    • 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.
      • Even better - watch what she's doing just after Shawn impales a zombie to a tree with a pole. Barbara is coming out of the house with a peach-colored napkin, the same one that Liz removes when she finds out Barbara was bitten.
    • 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.
      • Shaun is wearing his tie like a bandana — which is how he's wearing it at the climax.
      • Pete hurls an album out the window similar to how the duo will be throwing them later at a zombie.
    • Both of these lines said to Pete before Z-Day: "Next time I see him he's dead" and "We're going to the Winchester. You're free to join us if you feel better."
    • Ed attempting to console Shaun at the Winchester immediately after the breakup. The whole time he speaks, we see a shadow staggering up to the door behind him. As soon as Ed finishes, the zombie moans and bangs on the glass.
      Ed: I'm not going to say 'If you love her, let her go,' I'm not going to say 'There's plenty of other fish in the sea,' and I'm not gonna bombard you with cliches. But what I will say is this - [snorts derisively] - it's not the end of the world...
    • When Dianne tells David that she knows they're only together because after Liz rejected him in college she was there to pick up the pieces. Guess what two things happen in the next five minutes.
    • The Zombies actually holding a little bit of their memories is foreshadowed, With not only Philip turning the stereo off, but when Barbara turns, she doesn't attack Shaun at all, just stares at him, it's only when David shouts "DO IT" that she snarls, and if you notice she turns her head, she is snarling at David not Shaun, seems even Barbara didn't like him.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Shaun tells Liz that he's going to take her to "the place that does all the fish". When he opens the phone book you can see that the restaurant is literally described as 'The Place That Does All the Fish'. The name of the restaurant is "Fulci's," an Inspiration Nod to Italian film director Lucio Fulci (best known for his gore films and referred to as "The Godfather of Gore").
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Ego - Shaun
    • Id - Ed
    • Superego - Pete
  • 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.
  • Funny Background Event: Tons, but the topper has to be the lovers necking in the alley by the bar. The second time we see them, the man's head is bitten off. Talk about "necking".
  • Genre Deconstruction: The film makes it very clear just how relatively helpless a group of scared, lower middle class twenty-something Londoners would be in a zombie outbreak. Firearms are illegal in the UK so Improvised Weapons are the only option, and even if they came across a working example, nobody is likely to have any experience using it. But the UK is a much smaller country than the US and so the Army is never far away.
  • Gilligan Cut: Twice.
    • Shaun grimly looking at the knife in his hand and then over to his infected step-dad. The audience knows, a Mercy Kill is imminent, especially with Phillip's words regarding Shaun's immaturity, "Sometimes, you have to be a man". Cut to them all leaving the house together, Shaun visibly bitter about his lack of courage.
    • David: "You're not suggesting we walk [to the pub]?" Cut to the group doing exactly that.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Shaun and Ed bludgeoning the zombies in the garden.
  • 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!"
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It starts raining immediately after Liz dumps Shaun.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: David is not-so-secretly in love with Liz and is deeply jealous of Shaun for being with her.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: This is how the group prepares for the Zombie Bar Brawl.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: As David is torn apart by zombies, his legs come off and are then used as clubs.
  • Hate Sink: David is devoid of any apparent positive qualities. It helps pave his way to the most gruesome death, and in not making most viewers feel sorry for him.
  • Headache of Doom: As Pete inadvertently reveals, one of the earliest symptoms of the zombie plague is a splitting headache: having been bitten in a "mugging" on the way home from work, Pete loses his temper at the racket Shaun and Ed are kicking up at four in the morning and makes it abundantly clear he isn't in the mood thanks to his headache. A few hours later, he's found to have succumbed to the infection and become a zombie in the shower - resulting in a Full-Frontal Assault.
  • Headbutt of Love: A platonic version between Shaun and Ed before Shaun and Liz make their escape.
  • 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: The doppelganger group led by Jessica Stevenson.
  • Heroic BSoD: Shaun has one, when the talk stops being about escape and starts being about ending it quickly.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Shaun and Ed. Life and death partners, anyway.
    David: It wasn't me blowing our cover by arguing with my boyfriend.
    Shaun: He's not my boyfriend.
    Ed: [handing pint] Might be a bit warm, the cooler's off.
    Shaun: Thanks, babe.
  • Homage:
  • Humans Are Bastards: The stupid tasks they give the remaining zombies after the living take the world back shows that no one really cares about disposing of once-living people in a more dignified way.
  • Idiot Plot: A rare invoked example. Much of the plot revolves around Shaun struggling to balance his reasonable judgement against his old habits as an alcoholic slacker.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Everyone is in this mode on reaching the Winchester, and it's hard to blame them.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: When Shaun wakes up in the morning he changes the channel every time a news bulletin shows up. Said news bulletins finish each others' sentences (even when switching to and from non-news channels), all talking about the dead coming back from the grave.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Shaun berating his co-worker for not being able to keep work and social life apart. Ring! Liz is on the phone and wants to talk to Shaun.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The zombie girl in the backyard and later the zombie grandpa wearing a robe.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Averted as Shaun has never handled a rifle before, and his accuracy suffers accordingly.
  • 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 an Epic Flail... and the tennis ball bounces pathetically off its head. Cue Di and Liz making stabbing motions.
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: The zombie horde around the Winchester includes a wheelchair-bound woman, two biker twins, Tyres from Spaced, and the fully nude Pete.
  • Insistent Terminology:
  • Inspirational Insult: An angry rant by Pete, the main character's frustrated roommate (even more frustrated than usual after having been unknowingly bitten by a zombie and having his dumb flatmates play records extremely loudly in the wee hours of the morning), ends on "Sort your fucking life out, mate!" The next morning, "Sort your life out" is on Shaun's to-do list, and it becomes the film's theme.
  • 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. This is 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?
    • The last thing we hear before the day of the Zombie Apocalypse is Shaun's mum on the phone, saying lots of people don't eat meat nowadays.
    • Had Shaun and Ed remained stagnant, everyone could have survived. Shaun and Ed would have only needed to leave to save Barbara and then either return home to barricade it once the zombies have spread out or find somewhere else to hunt for humans. Their time in stagnation taught them how to stay occupied at home or how to find ways to entertain themselves. The zombies weren't interested in Liz, David, Dianne because the zombies believed their apartment complex was abandoned. David's attempts to seduce Liz wouldn't have worked since she didn't pick up on it and didn't see him that way, especially since he was with Dianne at the time. Granted, they didn't think the zombie outbreak would only last a day and Shaun was fearing for Liz and Barbara's safety.
  • 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.
    • "You've got red on you." (Referring first to the ink leaking out of the red pen in Shaun's shirt pocket, then to the blood spattered across him.)
    • 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.
    • Many of the shots from the TV montage during the intro are mirrored later on, such as the game show 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.
    • When Shaun is getting ready to go to work at the beginning of the movie, he uses the toilet and checks himself in the mirror. After, he adjusts the mirror to find an angry Pete standing behind him. Later on, before Shaun and Ed prepare to leave the flat, Shaun goes to use the bathroom and checks himself in the mirror. Then he adjusts it to find the silhouette of Zombie Pete behind the shower curtain.
    • At the beginning of the film, Ed and Shaun are at the Winchester immediately after Liz dumps Shaun, "If You Leave Me Now" starts playing (at the worst possible time) on the jukebox. Later in the film, when the group is holed up at the Winchester and the newly zombified John the Bartender appears, "Don't Stop Me Now" starts playing again (and again, at the worst possible time).
      Shaun: Who the hell put this on?!
      Ed: It's on random!
      Liz: For fuck's sake!
    • 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!
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Liz: What, you want to hang out with my friends? A failed actress and a twat?
    Shaun: Well, that's a bit harsh.
    Liz: Your words, Shaun!
    Shaun: I did not call Dianne a failed actress!
  • It Can Think:
    • Phillip's zombie shuts off the music he hated right after Shaun was convincing his mother that it wasn't Phillip anymore.
    • At the end of the film, Ed is still able to play video games despite being a stiff. He even stops when Shaun reprimands him for attempting to bite him and doesn't try anything more.
    • Remember when Shaun told zombie Pete he and Ed were heading to the Winchester and that he could join them? He listened.
    • The zombified Barbara noticeably doesn't become hostile until David demands Shaun shoot her, and even then you can see that she turns to David rather than her son.
    • Despite being undead, Nelson the shop owner can be seen holding out his hand as though he was aware that Shaun hadn't paid for his stuff in full.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: David's last hop over the Moral Event Horizon is when he panics and pulls the trigger on Shaun. *Click*. Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: When Shaun, Liz, David, Dianne, Barbara, and Ed run into the alternative "gang" as they make their way to the Winchester, there are quite a few comedy partnerships brought together again.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Ed at the end.
  • The Jaywalking Dead: Shaun and Ed ends up running over a zombie, much to their relief (since they weren't sure if the person was dead). "Oh thank God for that."
  • Jerkass: David, most notably.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Ed is a biblical pain in the arse, but he's the one who tries to cheer Shaun up when he's dumped and makes the Heroic Sacrifice for him at the end. Along with the fact he clearly held Barbara in high regard, not coming across as abrasive when he talks to her, openly in tears just as much as Shaun when she dies, and pointing a broken bottle at David when he tries to shoot her corpse.
    • Pete could be argued to be this as well. While clearly frustrated with Ed's mooching and Shaun's lack of direction, he's still fairly cordial and patient with Shaun. Notably, when Shaun mentions that he and Liz broke up, Pete immediately backs off, politely asking them to keep it down (despite being awakened at 4 in the morning); it's only when Ed can't resist insulting him when he's leaving that he finally snaps.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • David, a few times. He's right that Shaun hasn't really thought his "plan" through at all, and that they'll just end up "sitting in the dark eating peanuts". The crowning example is his preparing to shoot Barbara as she's dying from a zombie bite, saying 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.
    • David is also right that they should have holed up in the apartment. This is probably a shoutout to the original Night of the Living Dead, in which Harry Cooper the Jerkass says that they should barricade the basement while Ben says they should defend the house. Ben's the hero and Harry's the jerkass but Harry was right, and David's right in this movie.
      • Deconstructed as while David is right about Shaun's ill-thought plan, the other characters point out Shaun at least is trying while all that David does complain and doesn't actually do anything to really help their situation and the reason he even went along with Shaun's plan is that he didn't know what else to do. They also point out that his criticism of Shauns stems from his own personal dislike of him.
    • 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 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 comes when Pete confronts him with the implication that he keeps hanging around Ed to feel less like a loser and that he should "sort [his] 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:
    [Shaun clubs a zombie with the butt of the Winchester]
    Ed: Why didn't you just shoot him, man?
    Shaun: Ed, for the last time...
    Shaun squeezes the trigger of the gun, and it fires
    Ed: I fucking knew it!
  • Just for Pun:
    • Compare Dawn of the Dead (Wright and Pegg freely admit this is an awful gag, but were too attached to it.)
    • Pegg has also joked about making a sequel - From Dusk Till Shaun.
    • One of the bonus features is an It's A Knockout-style game with zombies as the contestants — called "Dead Fun", thus playing on two meanings of "dead".
  • Just Ignore It: Shaun does this when he fixes a fuse and notices zombies right outside the nearby window; his response is to turn off the light and to lower the blinds.
  • Karmic Death:
    • 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.
    • Pete biting Ed is a straighter example. It almost comes off as revenge.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: David is pulled through the window and eaten, right in the very middle of saying "I'm sorry" to Shaun.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: David gets a far more excessive death than any character who dies on screen, with the rest of the (shown) deaths being due to a combination of blood loss and the Zed-Virus, they tend to go out peacefully at least, David get's dragged out a window, disembowelled and finally, literally, torn to pieces by the horde, the only saving grace seems to be that the aforementioned disembowelment either sent him into shock or outright killed him in seconds.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Shaun is forced to shoot Barbara when she becomes a zombie.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Averted with Ed who cheerfully takes a phone call while being surrounded by zombies in front of the Winchester. Shaun is not amused and slaps the phone out of Ed's hand.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Briefly seen on the bartender at the Winchester. Partly the reason Ed thinks he's part of The Mafia.
  • Last Stand: At The Winchester. However, Shaun and Liz are saved by the military.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail : The whole film is a masterclass in this trope.
    • All the zoned-out people shown in the opening montage reappear later as zombies.
  • Lethally Stupid:
    • Ed's insistence on going to the Winchester caused some people (including himself) to die.
    • Ed takes this to new levels and plays it for laughs. The characters need to get past a horde of zombies, and do so by acting like zombies to avoid drawing attention. When they are nearly to apparent safety, Ed's phone goes off... and he answers it and starts cheerfully talking on the phone, less than ten feet from dozens of zombies. Previously, he had "accidentally" crashed their first car, giving him an excuse to drive a Jaguar instead. Following after the cellphone incident, the electricity comes back on and he starts playing a pub fruit machine, which draw the attention of a zombie in the same building as them.
    • 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.
    • Frankly, the entire group lives and breathes this trope, making stupid decision after stupid decision, but Ed really is the king.
  • 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.
  • Lodged Blade Removal: Shaun gets a dart thrown into his head, as a result of Diane trying to help him fight off a zombie. After the zombie is dealt with, Shaun pulls the dart out, and aside from wearing a headband around the wound, does nothing to treat it.
  • 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 Iron: Somehow, Shaun manages to not only survive getting hit in the skull with a dart, even rips the damn thing out and doesn't outright die on the spot. Even with the potential explanation of an adrenaline surge and/or Shaun just plain refusing to die until everyone's safe, that's still a sharp implement in the skull and brain. Honestly, he's lucky he's the protagonist of a zombie movie.
  • Made of Plasticine: Like a lot of zombie movies, human bodies get torn apart relatively easily.
  • Meaningful 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Each of the main characters' names rhymes with their eventual fate. Well, except for Dianne, who is actually confirmed to survive offscreen by hiding up a tree.
  • Mercy Kill: Shaun is forced to do this to Barbara, after she's become a zombie.
  • Mexican Standoff: Involving a rifle, two broken bottles, and a corkscrew. And a lampshade.
  • Mickey Mousing: Happens twice.
    • During the intro credits.
    • When the heroes are whaling on the bartender to the sound of Queen.
  • Militaries Are Useless: A memorable aversion, where the military just comes in and mows down the zombies in less than a day, with complete ease and not so much as a single casualty. They rescue the protagonists and peace is quickly restored.
  • The Millstone: Ed. Deconstructed during the film, though some moments stand out, such as having his cell phone on outdoor mode while surrounded by zombies. Being forgetful would at least be understandable, but answering it and holding a conversation wins him the award for dumbest human being ever. Oh, and he's not even chatting to a friend. He's selling weed.
    Roger Ebert: (in his review) When Liz complains that Ed is always around, Shaun says "he doesn't have too many friends," which is often an argument for not becoming one.
  • Mirror Scare: Played straight, then echoed. Like everything else in the movie.
  • Mocking Music: "Who the 'ell put this on?" "It's on random... *sob*" "For fuck's sake!" Used for Ironic Echo value. The first time, the hero is bemoaning his girlfriend dumping him when the jukebox has the nerve to play Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now". The second time, the jukebox pipes up with Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now!"... as the pub the characters are in is being surrounded by zombies and a loud, fast, pumping rock track seemingly designed to attract their attention is the last thing the characters want.
  • 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 "invoked Don't Stop Me Now" sequence.
    • It's also done literally: about to turn into a zombie, Philip delivers a touching speech about fatherhood to Shaun, who is moved to tears. Shaun tells Ed to pull over, and he spins the car to a screeching halt. The gang is not pleased.
    • Ed's inability to take anything seriously causes one as Shaun tearfully says goodbye to his best friend before leaving him to die in a basement.
      Shaun: I love you.
      Ed: Gay.
  • Mundane Utility: The zombies become this at the end. The invasion is stopped in less than a day, and the zombies becomed domesticated, or they're used as a source of cheap labor and entertainment.
  • My Local: The Winchester pub.
  • 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. (In fact, according to some accounts, they just invited Michael Smiley back to be a zombie, but he decided to come back in character as Tyres himself.)
    • 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.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Several, Jeremy Thompson from Sky getting the best line.
  • New Parent Nomenclature Problem: Has the recurring line, "He's not my dad, he's my stepdad" from Shaun about his stepfather Phillip. It stems from Shaun viewing Phillip as a Jerkass, rather than the Jerk with a Heart of Gold he is. Before turning into a zombie Phillip tells Shaun he's always loved him and Shaun finally acknowledges Phillip as his dad - without the "step-dad" qualifier tacked on.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Ed does this twice, firstly when he objects to Shaun's original plan to hide out in Liz's flat just because he wanted to be allowed to smoke, and later when he unwittingly turns on the loud slot machine and subsequently hits the jackpot, alerting the zombies outside The Winchester of the group's presence inside.
    • Dianne when she lets the zombie horde in so that she can rescue what's left of David. Granted, by that point the zombies were already breaking through the windows and the backdoor, so she just sped the process up slightly.
  • 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...
  • Non-Action Guy: David, originally ("Feel free to step in at ANY TIME!") - later, all David's attempts to be more "proactive" go horribly awry.
  • Noodle Incident: Shaun alludes to one where Ed apparently shot his sister in the leg — hence why Ed is no longer allowed to handle actual firearms.
  • Not a Zombie: For a long time, Shaun and Ed are oblivious to the zombie invasion going on. When confronted with the Zombie girl in the backyard, they mistake her for being drunk and only realize something's up when she falls, gets impaled through the stomach on a pipe, and then stands back up.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Where the title came from, and the readiest example.
    Ed: Are there any zombies out there?
    Shaun: Don't say that!
    Ed: What?
    Shaun: That.
    Ed: What?!
    Shaun: That. The Z word. Don't say it.
    Ed: Why not?
    Shaun: Because it's ridiculous!
    Ed: (sighs and rolls his eyes) All right... Are there any out there, though?
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: David's first thought when the gun doesn't work. An exasperated Ed points out It Works Better If You Cock It.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Right after Shaun is dumped by Liz, his mother calls and tells him how she cannot wait to finally meet Liz in person.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We never see how Shaun managed to give the zombies the slip when he comes back to the pub.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Shaun and Ed in their backyard, when the zombie girl rises from being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and they finally realize what is going on around them.
    • Shaun gets another when luring away the zombies outside the Winchester. He suddenly realised what he was doing:
      Shaun: Oh, bollocks.
    • Shaun gets a big one when he turns on the lights and realizes how many zombies are outside the back door.
    • Shaun gets an even bigger one when he goes up the ladder to check the coast is clear...and discovers it's very much not.
  • 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.
  • The Oner: Done twice, for effect. Early, we see the camera follow Shaun for the entire duration of his walk from the flat to the corner shop to buy a Diet Coke and a newspaper. Along the way, he nearly gets hit by a kid's soccer ball, gives money to a homeless man, and walks in front of a car, getting yelled at by the driver. The day of the zombie invasion, the single-take happens again, as Shaun walks to the corner shop and is so hungover that he doesn't notice zombies in the streets and corpses all over. The second oner is longer, also following Shaun all the way back to the flat.
  • 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, which is a Shout-Out to Day of the Dead (1985).
  • Pac Man Fever: Averted in the sense that actual footage of a TimeSplitters 2 gaming session being shown. The exception to this was the addition of a voice saying "Player X has joined/left the game", added for comedic purposes.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Ed tosses a Winchester rifle to Shaun near the start of the climactic showdown in the Winchester Pub. However, under the impression that the rifle is only a prop rifle made to hang over the bar, he uses it to bash a zombie's head in before learning that it actually does fire bullets.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: David is the closest to being an antagonist in the film, as he does nothing but whine and moan about Shaun. He does a few villainous things in the movie; he doesn't help Shaun when the latter is tackled by a zombie, he tries to shoot Barbara but forces Shaun to do it instead, and he tries to kill Shaun after the latter had outed David's feelings for Liz and punched him for his callousness.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Subverted with "Sorry, we're closed."
    • 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.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: 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 funnier 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!!!
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": David's last words.
  • A Rare Sentence: Jeremy Thompson says he never expected to say Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • A strange example: when David tries to apologise to Shaun, he is promptly torn apart by zombies before he can actually do so.
    • Ed pretty much was The Millstone throughout the film with his carelessness exasperating the situation more than once, but he redeems himself by staying behind to guard Shaun and Liz's escape as he lays dying after being bitten by Pete, even going so far as to tell them I Will Only Slow You Down.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Shaun refers to Liz as his "girlfriend" near the end, and she replies tongue-in-cheek:
    Liz: What makes you think I've taken you back?
    Shaun: [smirking] Weeell... don't want to die single, do you?
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: The Sky newsreader's zombie-killing advice is the Trope Namer.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Dianne is resigned to the fact that she was David's consolation prize after he tried (unsuccessfully) to get with her friend Liz at university, as well as to the fact that he's still in love with Liz.
  • Reveal Shot: 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. Zooming out, we see it's just Shaun, half-asleep and yawning after getting out of bed.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In the climax of the film, David tries to shoot Shaun after he had outed David's feelings for Liz and after Shaun punched him. This makes the scene in the garden develop a sinister tone while watching it again. Did David refuse to help because he was scared? Or did he refuse to help because David wanted Shaun to die so he could be with Liz?
  • Room Full of Zombies: This happens when they venture to the pub.
  • 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."
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Sickeningly Sweet: When Shaun and Liz are professing their love for each other while hiding from the zombies, a bitten Ed mutters, "That's it. I'd like to be shot, please."
  • Silent Snarker: The zombies occasionally emit signs that even they're dumbfounded by the antics of the survivors.
  • 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 (UK) and Tasmin Greig worked with Dylan Moran on Black Books.
  • A Simple Plan: "How's that for a slice of fried gold?"
    (later) "Oh, let's go to the Winchester — whose fucking idea was that?"
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Ed, who even casually answers a phone call while surrounded by zombies. And not even to talk to a friend. No, he's selling drugs.
    • Philip, despite having been bitten on the neck by a zombie after already being bitten on the hand, is more concerned with Ed recklessly speeding and driving like a maniac while blasting heavy metal music at full volume. To be fair, he thought the zombies were actually drug addicts and did not know that their bites are fatal.
    Philip: Will you please turn that racket down?!
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Shaun and Ed after a long night of heavy drinking.
  • 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.
  • 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 everyday life and life goes on pretty much as it did before.
  • Stealth Pun: Di. Despite her name, she survives!
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Deconstructed. The English tendency to keep quiet and not make a fuss through suffering and tragedy is put through its paces when people start hiding their zombie bites. Most tragically, Shaun's mother Barbara.
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm scream can be heard faintly in the background when the soldiers come to the rescue.
  • Supporting the Monster Loved One: Happens to Zombie Ed by the end of the movie.
  • 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 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.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Pete managed to get all the way to the Winchester and bit Ed.
  • Take That!:
  • Talking Is a Free Action:
    • Shaun and Ed discuss which records to throw at two approaching zombies. Justified by the fact that these zombies are really slow.
    • The blazing row that Shaun and Ed have after Ed answers his phone in front of a crowd of zombies when they're supposed to be acting like zombies to escape notice - apparently, the zombies are too surprised to attack.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Shaun concludes that he and Ed are safe in the house. Cue zombie smashing the glass door.
    • Both these lines towards Pete: "Next time I see him he's dead" and "Ed and I are going to the Winchester. You're free to join us if you feel better."
  • There Was a Door: Round the back of The Winchester, so David didn't need to smash the front window.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Barbara displays one of these during Dianne's acting lesson.
  • Title of the Dead: Parodying "Dawn of the Dead (1978)"
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Shaun's mother. What did she think would happen after opening the door to a zombie?
    • David standing right in front of the pub window, seconds before he gets eaten.
    • Ed. Repeatedly.
      • Exhibit A: The characters need to get past a large horde of zombies and decide to try acting like zombies to go through. As they're almost to safety, Ed's phone begins ringing and he answers it and starts cheerfully chatting to his friend, with the zombies less than ten feet away.
      • Exhibit B: Previously, he "accidentally" crashed their car so he had an excuse to drive the Jag instead.
      • Exhibit C: Following the phone incident, when the group are cowering in the pub and the electricity suddenly kicks in, Ed decides to play a very loud fruit machine, which of course alerts a horde of zombies to their presence.
    • The entire human race in the epilogue qualifies. Civilisation reasserts itself but some zombies are still kept around and used as cheap labour and cheaper entertainment, and they aren't even muzzled.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Shaun, motivated by getting his girl friend back, turns into a hero during the course of the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Total Party Kill: Heavily implied with Yvonne's group.
    Yvonne: Well... at least someone made it.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers tended to play up the comedic aspects and downplay or ignore the more serious and horrific elements.
  • Trick Dialogue: Shaun and Liz's brutally frank conversation about Ed, Dianne and David.. where it's finally revealed that all three of them are within earshot.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: A variant appears when Shaun flicks through television channels in the first halfnote :
    Channel 4 News' Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Though no one official is prepared to comment, religious groups are calling it Judgement Day. There's...
    VH1, playing "Panic" by The Smiths: ...Panic on the streets of London...
    ITV News reporter: an increasing number of reports of...
    Football commentator note : ...serious attacks on...
    Channel Five news reporter: ...people, who are literally being...
    Nature documentary, leopards eating a gazelle: ...eaten alive.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The Winchester has the gun hidden in plain sight, but Shaun and the others initially think it's just a prop.
  • 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 purposes, roping them into reality TV shows, menial labour and chat shows, among other things.
  • Understatement: "If we don't get out now, they'll come up here and tear us all to pieces. And that is really going to exacerbate things for all of us."
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: Shaun and Ed devise a plan to collect Shaun's friends, mum, and stepdad, and find safety "until this whole thing blows over." Then the plan changes and a revised montage plays accordingly.
  • The Unreveal: The true cause of the Zombie Apocalypse is never revealed. 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.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Shaun and Ed's visualized plan of rescuing friends and family was destined for disaster.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Shaun being oblivious to the devastation around him on the day of the zombie apocalypse, including not noticing the Bloody Handprints at the corner shop.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Friends' help is just as likely to hurt, to the point of a Running Gag. During Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" scene, Dianne 'helps' Shaun fend off a zombie bartender by throwing darts, with mixed success.
    Shaun [after Dianne scores a hit]': Yes! In the head! Aaaaow!
  • Vehicle Vanish: Shaun sees a man picking up and eating a pigeon in the park. Then a bus blocks his view and the zombie is gone.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used when the zombies break through the barricade.
  • Vinyl Shatters: "'Purple Rain'?" "No." "'Sign o' the Times'?" "Definitely not." "The Batman soundtrack?" "Throw it."
  • Weirdness Censor: Shaun takes an awfully long time to notice the zombie apocalypse.
  • What Happened to Mommy?: One of the few things played absolutely straight.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Spoken nearly verbatim by Ed after Shaun uses the Winchester to shove John into the jukebox headfirst.
    Ed: Why didn't you just shoot him, man?
    Shaun: Ed, for the last time, it's not real! (gun discharges)
    Ed: I fuckin' knew it!
  • Wicked Stepfather: 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. It also 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... even if he was technically right.
  • Wiper Start: Ed when getting Pete's car to start.
  • You Leave Him Alone!: Shaun when Pete starts berating Ed at the start of the film. This gets an Ironic Echo when zombie-Pete attacks Ed at the end.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Well, duh. Subverted in that the military mops it up pretty quickly, and life goes on with zombies just being a part of society.
  • Zombie Gait: Parodied quite frequently. Zombies in the world of the film are slow, to the point that characters frequently get into arguments or lengthy conversations as the zombies shamble towards them in the background. In fact, Shaun is able to get through his whole morning routine without being attacked, as he simply treats the zombies like pedestrians and walks briskly while not making eye contact, which is enough to evade them completely.
  • Zombie Infectee:
    • Pete at the very beginning of the film.
    • Ed, Shaun's mum, and his stepdad early on.
    • Barbara hides the fact that she was bitten by a zombie.


Video Example(s):


Funky Pete

In the original version of Shaun of the Dead, Pete goes on a full on rant with tons of "fuck" usage.

In a version made for some TV stations and airlines, all uses of the word "fuck" in this scene are replaced with "funk", and prick is replaced with "prink".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / Bowdlerise

Media sources: