In 2002, 28 Days Later took every trope and cliche in zombie movies and made them new. Two years later, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost did the same thing for zombie parody. In fact, parody isn't even the word, because they invented a brand-new genre all its own: the zom rom com.
Shaun of the Dead is, in many ways, a perfect distillation of the disillusionment of the British Gen X-er in 2004. By then, most of them thought they'd have made something of themselves, but, instead, a lot of them found they were still working the same dead-end job they got as a teenager, hanging 'round the pub, and staring at all the sad, older regulars wondering if that's where they're inevitably gonna wind up.
Plus: There are zombies. And a bit of a love story. And the place that does the fish.
But the thing that makes Shaun of the Dead so brilliant is that it doesn't sacrifice one bit of genuine scare or drama by adding comedy and satire. When most people think of Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, the first thing they talk about is how well-edited and brilliantly stylized they are. But Shaun of the Dead's greatest strength is the journey each of its characters takes.
And the pinnacle of growing out of Gen X disillusionment is Shaun himself. What's revelatory about Shaun's story is that, zombie menace aside, he doesn't even have to do that much to improve his life. His girlfriend, Liz, is right about him needing to take a greater responsibility in his own life, and he does that by getting out of his return, albeit under the threat of literal death and dismemberment.
But after the whole apocalyptic event has passed, Shaun's changes are small but no less important. He's moved in with Liz, he's taken a more positive position on getting out and working, and most importantly of all, he's moved the things that represent his youth from the main room of the house to the shed in the garden. And any therapist will tell you that it's important to have hobbies, even childish ones, but that it's equally important for those hobbies to have a time and a place outside of your every day life.
In short: The zombies in Shaun of the Dead are therapeutic. On today's episode of Every Day Horror Presents The 13 Days of Halloween podcast, Allison Pregler, Phelan Porteous, and Mathew Buck return to talk about all the best jokes from Shaun of the Dead. They also answer the most important question: Just what sort of zombie reality show do they think they'd each wind up on?