Dying is easy, comedy is hard, and combining the two is no joke. But just when it seemed there were no more changes to be rung on zombie-movie conventions, along came first-time feature filmmakers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg with this sharp, witty nightmare comedy that proves there's still life in the dead. On Friday morning, 29-year-old London slacker Shaun (Pegg) is just another loser with a soul-sucking electronics-shop gig and a berth in a shabby house with warring roommates, boorish video-game addict Ed (Nick Frost) and snooty yuppie Pete (Peter Serafinowicz). Shaun hates his stepfather (Bill Nighy), feels guilty about neglecting his patient mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and has to endure a full day of customers and coworkers saying "You've got red on you" as though he's failed to notice the spreading ink stain on his own shirt. Shaun's social life revolves around boozing with Ed at the Winchester, a tatty pub, and girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) — the best thing that ever happened to Shaun — who calls it quits after he blows their anniversary dinner by neglecting to make a reservation. Shrouded in petty misery, Shaun fails to take proper notice of the signs of the impending apocalypse. The feverish commuters, a little deader around the eyes than usual; the homeless man gnawing off a pigeon's head; the shambling junkies and drunks dribbling thin strings of gore rather than drool; Pete's story about getting mugged on the way home by some punks who bit him. By Saturday, even Shaun and Ed's massive hangovers can't muffle the realization that something's gone terribly wrong with the world: The streets are eerily depopulated, the news is a blur of cannibal-zombie carnage and there's a dead girl rooting around the back garden. Resolved to stop dithering and get his life together, Shaun commandeers Pete's car and, with Ed in tow, takes off on a mission. They'll rescue Barbara, pick up Liz, and hide out at the Winchester, which is where the strategic details get a bit fuzzy. But if you have to ride out a siege of the living dead, you might as well do it somewhere where they have liquor and snacks. Directed by Wright and co-written by Wright and Pegg, veterans of popular U.K. sitcom Spaced, this darkly larky spin on George Romero's cannibal-zombie classics twits living-dead pictures and British romantic comedies with equal ferocity. Both genuinely funny and authentically horrifying, it puts the average horror comedy to shame.
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