Shaun of the Dead: The crazy rom-zom-com labor of love


Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite splatstick films. Whenever it is on, the world comes to a screeching halt for me. Inspired by a recent Entertainment Weekly interview with director Edgar Wright and writer-actor Simon Pegg, I decided to compare the Cornetto Trilogy to two horror classics, the Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead.

“Who died and made you f**king king of the zombies?” – Ed

Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg vs Sam Raimi-Bruce Campbell

Shaun of the Dead shares many things in common with Sam Raimi’s cult classic, Evil Dead. For one thing, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright were not proven box office successes. The same could be said of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert.

Much like Raimi, Wright was an untested director despite having helmed the Simon Pegg Spaced sitcom on the UK’s Channel 4 and other popular television series. Both films were labors of love that required quite a bit of persuasion to get made.

According to Kate Ashfield who played Shaun’s girlfriend, Liz in the movie, “It really was quite unusual at the time. They called it a ‘rom-zom-com.’ You think: ‘I’ve never heard of one of those before.’” Prior to the making of Shaun, Pegg was known primarily as a comedian.

The same can be said of Raimi and his Michigan Mafia crew. They started out making Three Stooges inspired short films. Simon Pegg was such a fan of horror that he had “written a sequence for Spaced in which Tim is playing Resident Evil and it becomes real, which was just an excuse to participate in a little bit of zombie action.”

Of Coincidences and Trilogies

Actually, Edgar Wright suggested that he and Pegg do a zombie film for their first feature together. Due to the success of Shaun, the pair went on to work on two successive films thus rounding out what would come to be known as the “Cornetto Trilogy.”

Why did their movies become identified with the popular UK ice cream treat? Wright explains, “Eating a Cornetto was an odd hangover cure.”

Evil Dead is also a trilogy with a central character named Ash. An interesting fact that Movie Pilot points out is that in a scene where Shaun arrives to work, one of his coworkers makes a remark about Ash calling in sick. How is that for a wink and a nod?

An Homage to Classic Romero

Shaun of the Dead- George Romero – Courtesy of Image Ten

It is no secret that Wright and Pegg are fans of legendary horror director, George Romero. Both have admitted that they enjoy Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. If you look closely at Shaun of the Dead, you will see some inherent similarities.

The most obvious comparison deals with locations. Majority of the action in both films occur inside. For Shaun, it is the Winchester pub. In Romero’s Dead, it is the farmhouse.

Simon Pegg explains how the Winchester came into existence. “The Shepherds was a pub within two minutes’ walking distance of our house. To say we were regulars would be an understatement.”

Nick was the one that said, “You should go to a pub in a zombie apocalypse. You’ve got food and drink, and the doors are really heavy. That was the genesis of the Winchester.”

So, Shaun’s crew takes refuge in their favorite watering hole and Romero’s cast holes up in an abandoned farmhouse fighting off hordes of the cannibalistic undead.

A famous anecdote involves the celebrated director attending a special screening for Shaun of the Dead. As Edgar Wright recounts, “I got the call and George goes, “Oh, it’s wild, man. I love it.” Simon Pegg chimes in with, “I apologized to him that Bill’s character [reanimated] too quickly. George said, “You know what, Simon? I didn’t mind.”

via Universal

A Possible Shaun Sequel?

Of course, it is amazing in the current Hollywood climate of reboots and rehashes that Shaun of the Dead didn’t somehow come up. However, Simon Pegg admits that, “I jokingly wrote a treatment for From Dusk till Shaun, which was a sequel. Edgar thought it would be funny to do the film again, with vampires. It was all just pub talk.”

While that sounds like an interesting premise, Nick Frost has the right idea. “When it happens it’ll happen, and it’ll be great. Or people will hate it.”

Next: Thoughts from the Ledge: Birth of the Necronomicon Nightmare, Evil Dead

Do you enjoy Shaun of the Dead? Would you like a sequel? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We want to hear from you!