What would you do if your street was suddenly swarming with mindless, flesh-eating zombies? Hardly blink an eye? Us neither. After all, they don't look much different to the slack-jawed commuters who sit next to you on the bus. And that's just one of the spot-on satirical ideas bubbling in the fevered brains of Shaun Of The Dead creators Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.
Taking their inspiration from George A Romero's shuffling skin chompers, the men behind sci-fi-slacker sitcom Spaced have turned their talents to film. And, like Romero's best efforts, the movie is motored by a keen observational reality, cleverly twisting the characters' mundane world inch by inch until the real nightmare dawns on them.
But don't write this off as Spaced: The Movie. Pegg and Wright have nimbly sidestepped the usual pitfalls of telly-to-movie translations by narrowing instead of broadening their focus. Where the series fed every sci-fi show and movie into the cultural blender, this chooses to all but drop the references. The humour's wrung from the characters' everyday bickering/banter and, in zooming in on the zombie genre and playing the undead element straight, Shaun emerges with a more mature and rounded story. Yet there's still room for the fantasy-comedy-horror side - - Coupling meets Evil Dead, with gorehounds catered for in the film's use of blood-spattered practical effects.
Some might argue that the gag-laden script could have undercut the scares. Luckily, Shaun manages to squeeze in some jump-worthy moments, which will have you gasping even as you giggle. And if the siege-style finale, which traps the protagonists in their local as zombies batter down the hatches, doesn't ever quite rival Night Of The Living Dead, it's still effective. We guarantee you haven't seen Queen used this well on a soundtrack since the days of Flash Gordon. If there is one irksome element in the mix, it's the supporting cast, with Dylan Moran (Black Books) and Lucy Davis (The Office) struggling to, ahem, flesh out a pair of skeletal support parts.
The odd zombified lurch aside, however, Shaun Of The Dead emerges as confident, snappy, funny and smart. Forget gutter-plumbing dross like Sex Lives Of The Potato Men: this could be the movie to resurrect British comedy from the grave.
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Zombie-loathers might choke at it, but it deserves a wide audience. At its worst, Shaun is always watchable; at its best, it's scarily good.