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Zombie experts toast Shaun of the Dead

Contributed by
Sep 25, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

Yesterday marked 10 years since the release of Shaun of the Dead in the United States, and it is an anniversary most zombie fans find worth celebrating. I already expound elsewhere, at great length (but, seriously, you should read it), about how important the film is to me and to the genre. But I wanted to reach out to some zombie expert friends who have also contributed significantly to the zombie-verse to see what they had to say about a decade of Shaun -- and to offer up a toast to Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

(Effects guru and director, The Walking Dead; Day of the Dead; Land of the Dead)
In my opinion, Shaun of the Dead did more for the zombie genre than any other film in the last 15 years because of its originality. It wasn't a remake, it wasn't a videogame-turned-movie, and it wasn't a sequel. It was wholly its own entity -- and is frightening, funny and inspiring at the same exact moment. ... This films resides proudly on the NICOTERO TOP 10 OF ALL TIME!!!!! Thank the maker for Edgar, Simon and Nick! Congratulations on 10 years! (For more on Nicotero's thoughts on Shaun, head to The Huffington Post)

(Author, Patient Zero; Rot & Ruin; Marvel Zombies: Wolverine)
The thing that makes Shaun of the Dead so effective is that the filmmakers clearly love the genre. They don't mock it, and they don't mock the fans for liking zombies. That's an important point because for years horror comedies made fun of the genre rather than had fun with. Few films got that right. Fright Night, An American Werewolf in London, Young Frankenstein and Shaun of the Dead are each landmark in their way. They each respect and adhere to the elements of the genre while having some fun. As a result they feel like they're made by fellow fans of the genre.

(Founder, Zombie Research Society; Author, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies; Expert, The Talking Dead)
The makers of Shaun are clear zombie fans, and stuck to the George Romero roots of the ghoul, while throwing in hidden nods to classic zombie flicks throughout. Even the use of news reports about a downed satellite causing the zombie plague are copied directly for Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. Even though Shaun of the Dead put a comedy veil over the undead, it kept to the roots of classic zombie movies in form, function and theme. A heavy dose of social commentary infused into Shaun, just as it was in classics such as 1978’s Dawn of the Dead.

(Author, Breathers; I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus; Big Egos)
In September 2004, I was in the early stages of writing Breathers — a dark romantic comedy about zombies but with sentient reanimated corpses. At the time I hadn’t read or seen anything with zombies as protagonists, since they were typically portrayed as the villains. So when Shaun of the Dead came out billed as “A romantic comedy with zombies,” my initial reaction was despair, as I thought someone had come up with the same idea and beaten me to the finish line. For a month or so I avoided the film so as not to influence my novel, just in case there were any similarities. Eventually I couldn’t resist and discovered that my fears were unwarranted. I also discovered that the film was charming and delightful and hit all the right comedic notes. As soon as the film was available on DVD, I went out and bought a copy.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did a wonderful job of giving a nod to Romero, while at the same time incorporating their own unique take on the genre. Having a couple of slacker buddies who were zombies in their own right as the heroes of the film was brilliant. And adding the romance as an impetus for action gave the film a warm, fuzzy touch that you don’t get a lot of in zombie stories.

(Author, Zombie, Ohio; Zombie, Illinois; The Zen of Zombie)
"First and foremost, Shaun of the Dead is important because it galvanized interest in the zombie genre in the United States. I think it did this by telegraphing the filmmakers' earnest appreciation for -- and remarkably thorough knowledge of -- the zombie genre. Beyond being a very fine horror-comedy, it's a love letter to zombie films.  When I watch Shaun of the Dead, I know right away that I am in the thrall of screenwriters and actors who keenly understand the conventions and narrative structures of the greatest zombie films; yet at the same time, I also appreciate that I am enjoying an entirely original piece of cinematic art. I think Shaun of the Dead ranks alongside Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead and Mantan Moreland's King of the Zombies as one of the finest, and funniest, zombie comedies ever made.

(Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Author, The Zombie Autopsies)
I took my teenage daughter this year with me to San Diego's Comic-Con, where I was scheduled to sit on the zombie enthusiast panel. I told her that if she were to come with me, we'd have to watch at least one zombie film on the six hour flight. As she was naive to the genre, we of course went with Shaun of the Dead.  

Why?  Because Shaun of the Dead is an honest to goodness zombie movie. It has pathos and humor and is ripe with both concrete and nuanced social commentary. "Look," my daughter said as we watched. "He doesn't really pay attention to anyone. He's just going through the motions." And that was at the beginning of the movie, before the zombies show up.  I had tried for the last five years to get her to understand the brilliance of this genre, and with Shaun of the Dead she finally opened her eyes. "This is a smart movie," she admitted. "A lot smarter than I thought it would be."

So, on the 10-year anniversary of this wonderful film, among all the other accolades I might bestow, the one that matters most to me is the gift that it brought me on a six-hour flight to San Diego. Shaun of the Dead will always for me be remembered as the first film that got my daughter to take pride in her father's strange avocation as a zombie-themed novelist. Plus, I might add, she's right. It is a smart film. It is true to Mr. Romero's vision, and it is true to the purpose of zombies themselves. Thank you, Mr. Wright, and thank you Mr. Pegg. You brought my daughter and me just a little bit closer.

(Co-Creator/Co-Executive Producer, Z Nation; Screenwriter, Zombie Apocalypse)
Shaun of the Dead is the movie that made zombies fun again while also classing them up a bit. It was outrageously funny but also smart and beautifully crafted, and it really made people remember the genre existed. In many ways it set the bloody, shambling stage for things like Zombieland and The Walking Dead (and, of course, Z Nation). It worked so well because it walked that thin line of being both a parody of, and an homage to, zombie movies of the past while also standing on its own as a fully realized, self-contained film. Doing either one of those things is hard enough, but to pull them both off is amazing. Shaun occupies a hallowed spot in the world of the undead all its own: the buddy zombie comedy!

A big reason for the current zombie craze is a handful of releases between 2002 and 2004 that had a major impact on pop culture and the entertainment industry, including 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead, The Walking Dead comic book series and Shaun of the DeadOf all of those releases, Shaun of the Dead is the one with the most heart and closest to the spirit of George A. Romero's original "Dead" trilogy. Like the Romero films, you could have easily replaced zombies with aliens or any other menace, and this still would have been a successful movie. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script, were respectful of the material that came before and created characters that you could relate to and care about.

Shaun of the Dead also has a perfect balance of horror and comedy. While there are laugh-out-loud moments, the movie never ventures into parody territory and there's enough gore there to satisfy fans of the zombie movies that came before it.

What are your memories of Shaun of the Dead? Did it change how you viewed zombie movies, or just express what you loved most about the genre already? Let us know in the comments!