Shaun of the Dead, 2004
Here’s to buddies, chums, best pals, amigos, companeros, and hetero lifemates, and what duo so fully epitomizes the spirit of cinematic friendship better than Simon Pegg and Nick Frost? No movie starring these two lads has ever failed to capture their bond and thrive on their chemistry, not simply because they’re both great actors but because their friendship extends beyond the studio and into real life, and essential 2004 offering Shaun of the Dead probably best represents their rapport and dynamic out of all every project they’ve taken on together.
When a zombie invasion threatens to spell the end of life as they know it, friends Ed (Frost) and Shaun (Pegg) man up and take it upon themselves to save their friends and loved ones from becoming ghoul chow. We’ve seen zombies invade the world plenty of times before, but never with this much wit and charm; Shaun gets silly, absolutely, but never to the point where director Wright’s intentions are to deride the genre and embarrass its fans. Rather, the film celebrates its horror roots by defining itself as a bona fide entry in the genre, and that genuine love for all things pertaining to the flesh-eating undead hordes shines through in frame after frame.
But as essential as that effusive admiration for zombie fare is to the movie’s success, it’s the friendship between Pegg and Frost that ultimately make the story so special and memorable. Shaun of the Dead isn’t just about the walking dead overtaking the world and devouring the living, and arguably the zombies are just there to frame the narrative concerning the friendship of the picture’s leads. Ed is a career slacker with no designs on improving his life or breaking out of his arrested development; Shaun’s not much better, but he wants to change even if the tools to enact that change have been denied him. And Shaun’s always defending Ed from the other people in his life– Pete, their third roommate, and Liz, Shaun’s girlfriend, for example– despite the fact that the good-natured but unapologetically lazy Ed is kind of indefensible. Shaun of the Dead revolves around their back-and-forth and truly rides on both actors being able to play off of one another, a requirement which the pair effortlessly surpass thanks to their very real off-stage friendship.
In a picture with a lot to offer its viewers, it’s the buddy element that resonates the most with us. Wright brings on the zombies, cheeky comedy, and impressive gore, blending them together to yield one of the best entries in the genre of its time and maybe even all time, but there should be little doubt that Shaun‘s secret weapons are Pegg and Frost.