It's a British film from the makers of the TV show 'Spaced,' which I've never seen but now intend to. "Shaun" is billed as a "romantic zombie comedy," or rom-zom-com, and that's exactly what it is. The title character is a lowly electronics store employee with a girlfriend, Liz, who's tired of his goalless life and lack of ambition, and a roommate, Ed, who's a jobless videogame-playing slug as well as his longtime best friend. Shaun's got so much petty crap going on in his life that it takes him longer than it should to notice that dead are coming back to life and eating the living.
Scenes where he wanders down streets and in and out of shops, oblivious to the growing chaos around him and looking rather like a zombie himself, play out flawlessly (and hilariously). Normally I loathe scenes where some witless character just HAS to notice what's going on and still doesn't-- it just seems like a cheap source of laughs-- but when it happens in "Shaun" it's funny as hell (not to mention technically impressive), like when he's lazily flipping through the TV channels, bouncing between news reports of the zombie apocalypse as every reporter on the screen finishes the sentence of the one before them, collectively telling him what's happening.
I keep reading reports of this movie having been made on an incredibly low budget, but as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't show. The camerawork is dynamic and clever, always directing your attention where it's supposed to go while still allowing you to take in the entire scene, and the zombie effects are perfect, as is the gore (there's a handful of really nice shots in there, among them, a delicious homage to "Day of the Dead," and the girl with the hole through her stomach-- that one had me wondering how the hell it was done).
A lot of the humor in the film comes from perfect timing and the use of repetition (like when a character says something early on in the movie and then again later, in a completely different context), and to a lesser extent, from references to other films-- the last line spoken in the scene where Shaun's trying to explain to his mother on the phone that he and Ed are going to come rescue her... that famous line blew me outta my chair, it was so unexpected and great. It's extremely well written, well directed, well shot, well acted... I could go on and on. It's even got a moment or two that are achingly sad, but smoothly and masterfully done so that the viewer isn't jerked out of the experience, out of the movie.
Some IMDB reviewer said that they doubted very many Yanks will be able to "get" the film. I've got to assume he or she was typically underestimating the humor detection capacity of the average American, or at least, of this American. I loved every minute of "Shaun of the Dead."
It's out in U.S. theaters September 24th. I'll be seeing it again then.
UPDATE: Something I forgot to mention earlier... When you see it, note how "Shaun" further establishes what's sure to become a new tradition (set forth by "28 Days Later") of zombie invasion movies taking place in England where nobody's got any fucking guns. Cricket bats, sure, but hardly a gun in sight, at least not until the military shows up. If I remember correctly, a single character in "Shaun" manages to get his hands on a rifle-- that's it. Kind of a whole different perspective.