3 Jun 2016

ZOMBIE FILM RULES - Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Every genre has cliches, but how well do zombie film parodies follow the Zombie film rules?

The following analysis may contain spoilers for



There will be no warning...

"... no official comment but religious groups are calling it Judgement Day. There's..." ~ Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
"... panic on the streets of London..." ~ The Smiths.
"... as an increasing number of reports of..." ~ Carol Barnes.
"... serious attacks on..." ~ Football commentator.
"... people who are being..." ~ Rob Butler.
"... eaten alive." ~ Wildlife presenter.

1a.  Eerie - From the use of The Specials at the beginning, to the stuff constantly happening in the background the film sets it up an eerie vibe.  .
1b.  News - It is all over the news, progressively getting worse but the main characters don't notice.
1c.  Sudden - It's actually a slow build, with reports of viruses, attacks and military involvement for a couple of days before Z-Day, but the main characters are oblivious until the "sudden" outbreak. 


There may be sex and nudity.

"Well, your mum rang about you going around tomorrow night, and then Liz rang about the two of you eating out tonight, and then your mum rang back to see if I wanted to eat her out tonight." ~ Ed..

2a.  Nudity - Shaun and Ed's flatmate Pete turns in the shower and is nude whenever he appears later in the film (nothing shown).
2b.  Sex - Sex jokes throughout, but no sex.


Unknown cause.

"Claims that the virus was caused by rage-infected monkeys have now been dismissed as bull..."  ~ Newsreader.

3a.  Unknown origin - An number of options are given, but most discounted.
3b.  Vague hints - An number of options are given, but most discounted.
3c.  The originators - An number of options are given, but most discounted.


The Living Dead.

"That's not your husband in there. OK?  It looks like him but there is nothing of the man you loved in that car." ~ Shaun.

4a.  Dead - Dead.
4b.  Rising from the grave - Not shown.
4c.  Instant decay - Pale.
4d.  Origin - An number of options are given, but most discounted.
4e.  Spread - Mostly via bite.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - Rudimentary IQ.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - Moans only.
4h.  Lost memory - Even though the characters make the claim, the first thing zombie Philip does is turn of the music.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - Certainly.
4j.  Swarms - Yes.
4k.  Stealth zombies - Mostly Zombie Pete.
4l.  Feeding - Bite/attack no real sign of feeding.
4m.  Destroy the brains - A newsreader specifically uses the line "removing the head or destroying the brain" from Night of the Living Dead.
4n.  Exploding heads - None.
4o.  The Z Word - Used a couple of times, specially to make this joke.


The Living.

"For a hero, you're quite a hypocrite!" ~ David.
"You're the one that's gone from being a chartered accountant to Charlton Heston!" ~ Shaun.

5a.  Individuals - Shaun & Ed.
5b.  Group of survivors - Shaun and Ed pick up Barbara & Philip and Liz, Di & David.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The hero - Shaun.
  • The heroine - Liz, the (by Z-day) Ex.
  • The bossy guy David, but only from time to time.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - Di, David's girlfriend.
  • The secondary hero - Ed.
  • The weepy girl - Barbara, Shaun's mom.  Not really too weepy, but fragile and soft-spoken.
  • Child - None.
  • The crazy guy - None.
  • Unbeliever Philip, Shaun's step-dad.
  • The gang leader - Yvonne. if you want to push things.
5d.  Man is the real monster - No living are killed by the dead, except by bad decisions.
5e.  Steep learning curve - Shaun, from someone who's wasting his life to becoming a team leader.  Liz, Di & David, when leaving their flat avoiding hitting zombies (although, that was so they didn't injure the actors) to Liz and Di soon after helping Shaun fight a zombie.
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - Shaun and Liz.[1]



"She's not your mum.  In a minute she'll be just another zombie." ~ David.
"Don't say that." ~ Shaun.
"We're not using the Z word." ~ Ed.

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - Played for laughs a few times.
6b.  Grieving - Brief in the few cases it happens.
6c.  Making accidental noises - A few times, especially for laughs.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - A few times (may be too early).
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - Happens, but accidental mostly.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - Barbara, but more in a didn't want to make a fuss way.
6g.  Unwilling to kill the bitten - Shaun attempts to kill Philip, but backs out.
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - The fight over killing Barbara.
6i.  In-fighting - Constant.
6j.  Fighting at all - Doesn't become physical.
6k.  Having sex - No one has sex.
6l.  Being cowardly - David is killed doing this.
6m.  Betraying the group - David.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - Eventually forced into the basement of the Winchester, it is safe but surrounded.
  • Upstairs - Liz, Di & David's flat probably counts..
  • For a Shower - Pete dies in the shower, but was bitten much earlier.
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - N/A.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - N/A.
  • Anywhere alone - Barbara.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - N/A.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - N/A.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't in rely on a slasher film
  • Communications devices - There are problems with the phone network, everything is engaged.  Except when it's not.
  • Lighting - The lights work, but they attract zombies.
  • Vehicular Transport - Seem OK.  Ed does write-off a car, just so he can drive a better one.
  • Their Own Legs - Shaun falls a few times.
  • The Authorities - The authorities actually save the day at the end.
  • Weapons – A variety not often dropped.
  • Escape Routes - Lacked them.
6p.  Being over-confident - They all follow Shaun was because he was the only the one showing confidence.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - Their plan is possibly too simple.
6r.  Making a plan - Shaun does.  All the members of the group except Liz and Shaun die.[1]
6s.  Assume they're safe - Doesn't really happen much.
6t.  Be happy - As usual.
6u.  Just one last thing - Not really.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - Shaun says Philip is dead, Barbara points out that he isn't.


Standard Plot.

"Take car. Go to Mum's. Kill Phil - "Sorry." - grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How's that for a slice of fried gold?" ~ Shaun.

7a.  Normal life - Yes.
7b.  Sudden outbreak - As noted, not sudden but seems so to the characters.
7c.  Meetings - No accidental meetings.
7d.  Civilisation will collapse - It does.  Briefly.
7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - They "loot" the Winchester.
7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - No bad gangs.
7g.  Finding a place to hole up - The Winchester.
7h.  Avoiding contecting to people - All connected already, and become moreso.
7i.  Suicidal - At the end, Liz and Shaun make plans but can't go through with them.
7j.  Undead loved-ones - The only one who turns up later is Pete.
7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - Too soon for food or water (but it is mentioned) but the shells end up in the fire, leaving two.
7m.  Escape from a place - Finally leaving the Winchester.
7n.  Armoured vehicle - Only the military at the end.
7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - As noted Liz & Shaun.
7p.  Injury - Ed is badly injured and left behind.
7q.  Heroic sacrifice - Ed.  Di in a way.[1]
7r.  Death of the last survivor - Two of the main characters survive.


There will be social commentary.

"As Bertrand Russell once said, "The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation." I think we can all appreciate the relevance of that now." ~ Shaun.
"Was that on a beer mat?" ~ Liz.
"Yeah, it was Guinness Extra Cold." ~ Shaun.

8a.  We are already zombies - The film is pretty explicit about it, repeating pre-outbreak scenes at the end.
8c.  Racism - No.
8d.  Working together - See quote above.
8e.  Man is the real monster - Not really. 
8f.  Zombies are people, too - In the end scenes.
8g.  Other - The film is about growing up, becoming and adult and accepting responsibility.


There is no happily ending.

"You wanna live like an animal, go live in the shed..." ~ Pete.

9a.  Downer ending - Happy to bittersweet ending.  Liz & Shaun are back together and seem happy, but Ed is a zombie.
9b.  Sudden end - The film has a coda set 6 months after Z-Day.
9c.  Disaster porn - Not really.
9d.  No cure - No cure shown.

RULE #10


"Well, I'm glad somebody made it." ~ Yvonne.

The film is a parody of the genre and makes a few references to previous zombie films.

10a.  Sequels - No sequels, but it is the first film in a thematic trilogy.
10b.  Remakes - No remakes and not a remake, but a parody of the genre.
10c.  Adaptations - No.

Extra.  Versions - No.


"What's the plan then?" ~ Shaun.

  • Rules that are followed in this film:   3; 4; 6; 7; 8.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:    1;  2; 5; 10.
  • Rules not followed by the film:  9.

~ DUG.

[1]  Extra material shows that Di also survived.

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