10 Years of Blood and Beers: Celebrating a Decade of ‘Shaun Of The Dead’

shaun of the dead

To this day, I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw Shaun of the Dead in 2004, and why I was watching it. My roommate and I caught a preview for it before another movie we were watching on DVD and immediately ventured over to our local movie place to rent a copy. At the time, I admittedly hadn’t experienced much British humor, or parodies in film, but Shaun of the Dead wasn’t necessarily a parody of the zombie films as the trailer and title had led us to believe. It was in fact “A romantic comedy. With zombies.” It said so right on the cover.

After watching Shaun Of The Dead for the first time, I knew I had stumbled on to something special, something unique and refreshing. I hadn’t yet watched Spaced (a show that actually spawned the idea for Shaun) at the time so I was new to the comedic genius that is any collaboration between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and their various recurring friends/contributors. Of course, as Shaun Of The Dead grew in popularity, eventually becoming a cult staple, fans would be delighted to find that it was only the beginning of an ongoing onscreen relationship that would result in a beloved franchise known as The Cornetto Trilogy.


Apart from simply being a purely hilarious film with lovable characters, endlessly quotable dialogue and unforgettable scenes, Shaun Of The Dead was a pioneer of a sub-genre resurgence; not only of the zombie comedy a la The Evil Dead and Dead Alive, but of zombie films in general. With Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake released earlier in the same year, these two films were really at the forefront of the zombie craze which has only grown exponentially ever since. Not that the undead haven’t been popular for several decades past, but it truly was around this time in the mid-2000s that a powerful revival began–thanks largely in part to both Snyder’s and Wright’s highly popular creations—which went on to become a full-blown fad with the likes of AMC’s The Walking Dead, several other mainstream, zombie-related feature films (e.g. Zombieland, World War Z, Evil Dead etc.), and countless video games with the same theme (e.g. Left 4 Dead, DayZ, Dead Island, Dead Rising). So much dead shit.

shaun of the dead gif 1

It’s a feat for any film to hold up well over the course of a decade, but as I have a habit of watching Shaun Of The Dead at least twice a year, I can confirm that Wright’s second feature film (following his debut, A Fistful of Fingers, from a full decade earlier), has done just that. I’ve personally never met a person that’s seen the film and not enjoyed it in some capacity. I can’t say the same for many other movies, and I think that’s a testament to the crew and characters’ talent and likability — not to mention the excellent tandem writing team of Pegg and Wright. Shaun Of The Dead (as well as Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) is one of those films that piles jokes upon jokes. The surface jokes are there for all to receive and enjoy, but ofttimes, it’s the ones buried within the layers that are the funniest. I’d like to think that at this point, 10 years later, I’ve caught just about everything there is to get within SotD, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I would catch something new with every rewatch up until at least 2008. The ‘Zomb-o-Meter’ included in the Blu-ray’s special features of course helps any fan discover every little minute detail and pop culture reference, too. There’s nods to over 40 films and iconic horror directors throughout Shaun Of The Dead; from the awesome Battle Royale poster on the wall in Shaun and Ed’s flat to Ed telling Shaun’s mother, “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” — an obvious homage to George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead.

On the topic of pop culture, I’d be doing the film a disservice if I didn’t mention its music as well. With a memorable soundtrack including plenty of Queen, the underrated I Monster, a brief snippet of The Smiths, and Zombie Nation, appropriately, the music in Shaun Of The Dead is both present in the background as with most OSTs, but also, at times, perfectly integrated into what’s being seen onscreen. Whether it’s Shaun and Ed’s a cappella version of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” with a zombie backup, or the “Don’t Stop Me Now” zombie beatdown scene in the Winchester, these bits display not only the group’s ability to creatively utilize the soundtrack in a unique way, but also, simply, their love for a wide array of music. This is further portrayed with Shaun and Ed’s “four in the fucking morning” electro dance party to Man Parrish’s “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop),” and the riotous bit where our two leads carefully sort through a box of records to choose which ones are acceptable to throw at the zombies that descend upon them.

Ed: Purple Rain?
Shaun: No.
Ed: Sign o’ the Times?
Shaun: Definitely not.
Ed: The Batman soundtrack?
Shaun: Throw it.
Ed: Dire Straits?
Shaun: Throw it.
Ed: Ooh, Stone Roses.
Shaun: Um, No.
Ed: Second Coming.
Shaun: I like it!
Ed: Ahhh! Sade.

Of course, the vinyl didn't quite do the trick...

Of course, the vinyl didn’t quite do the trick…

As mentioned previously, Shaun Of The Dead is as brilliant today as it was in 2004 upon release. Would it do as well had it been released this year as the same exact film? I honestly think it would. The zombie obsession has perhaps lost a little steam, but the fandom is still there and Shaun Of The Dead is still witty, smart, and downright hilarious. These elements would no doubt make for a box office hit today in 2014.

The fact is, whether or not you catch on to the subtle nuances in the film that tell us of Shaun’s previous days as a DJ, or you went on to eventually notice all the connections between the three films of The Cornetto Trilogy — these things don’t necessarily matter. What matters is that nearly anyone can appreciate something that this film has to offer and that is why it has become so widely loved and praised for an entire decade. It is the epitome of a ‘cult film’ or ‘cult favorite’ because it has acquired a dedicated fanbase that practically obsess over its characters, themes and endless quotability. There’s an insane amount of time and love that artists of all mediums have put into their own creations as to show their appreciation for this film. From Tyler Stout’s prints to A Large Evil Corporation’s amazing figures and Mondo’s gorgeous soundtrack LPs, these are just some of the countless bits of evidence that Shaun Of The Dead has lived on in truly incredible ways.

shaun and ed

I’d be thrilled to have just come across Shaun Of The Dead yesterday, but to have spent an entire decade with such a beloved film has been something else. I see no reason why I won’t still be laughing with Shaun and Ed in 2024 as I am today. All three films in The Cornetto Trilogy rank among my absolute favorites, but Shaun Of The Dead will always remain one of the most special and memorable to me. It sits alongside great company in Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Goodfellas, True Romance, Mrs. Doubtfire, Se7en and few others that I’ve watched more than any other films over the years.

Here’s to many more pints and not saying “the zed word.” Cheers!

shaun cheers

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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