Shaun of the Dead

A slovenly Londoner (cowriter Simon Pegg) decides to win back his uptight girlfriend and make amends with his poor fretful mother – and darn it if it doesn't happen on the eve of the End of the World, where everybody in London is turning into flesh-eating zombies!

What starts off as a silly, even one-note comedy – poor Shaun doesn't realize until a half-hour into the film that he's not surrounded by typical dead-to-the-world Londoners but by actual zombies – takes on surprising depth and pathos as Shaun and his rogues' gallery of pals try to escape from the thickening crowds of walking dead, before they wind up as dinner or as zombies themselves. Thanks go to Wright and Pegg's tight script, a fine ensemble cast of actors known primarily for their work on UK television series, and, for me, a genuine creepiness.

Shaun of the Dead's story taking place almost entirely during the daytime (hmm, just like Claustrophobia!), as well as the comic element, actually makes the zombies wandering around in the background even more nightmarish. What we wind up with is a fine blend of humor, horror, and humanity.

That I don't have much more to say about this film owes as much to its flawlessness (particularly its epilogue, one of the most satisfying I've seen in years) as it does to the tardiness of my review (I saw it over a month ago). It would take a lot of really great films to be released in the next month or two to bump this dark horse off my "Ten Best" for 2004. But as you may guess, a film that bills itself as "a romantic comedy, with zombies" is not for everybody, no matter how well it's made.