Shaun of the Dead (S. Pegg & E.Wright, 2004) was my first iTunes movie download. I needed it urgently and the download was quick & cheap. Pure craftmanship. No wonder the ‘zomcom’ made $30m worldwide
by Karel Segers
This is the type of comedy only the Brits can do well. Simon ‘Shaun’ Pegg wrote it with director Edgar Wright, both seasoned comedians with perfect timing.
At the bottom of the page you’ll find some notes on the mythical aspects of this story, but let’s get straight into the minute-by-minute breakdown first!
Sequence A: The Need to Live a Little (13mins)
00.00 Studio leaders (& Dan Mudford’s cool soundtrack)
01.00 Liz: I want to live a little! Shaun: Okay. Tomorrow.
04.00 Shaun, living as a zombie at home with Ed, gaming.
05.00 Peter: Ed has to leave. Not students anymore.
06.00 Shaun can’t tell Ed. Ed: Ain’t doing nothing for Pete.
07.30 Liz’s VM message: book table for 8, not 7.
08.30 Nelson’s corner shop. / Person faints at bus stop.
09.00 Work: Team mocks & ignores Shaun. / Selling.
10.30 Stepdad Philip: See you tomorrow. With flowers!
11.30 Shaun ignores Liz’s call to look professional. 8pm.
12.00 Buying flowers for mum. Sees man eating pigeon.
(Inciting Incident of the Zombie story)
Sequence B: Shaun’s World is Falling Apart (13mins)
13.00 Bus: people coughing. Yvonne: house, grown up.
13.30 Booking restaurant – forgot. No tables left.
14.30 Liz: What’s the plan? Winchester? Liz hangs up.
(Inciting Incident of Inner Journey /Love Story)
15.30 Liz doesn’t want to see you.
16.00 Arguing w/ Liz. All promises. David: 9 lives are up.
17.30 Flowers “to wonderful mum”. Liz: gotta do something.
18.30 To Winchester with Ed: keep drinking! Very drunk.
20.00 All “rich, interesting characters” in Winchester.
22.00 Ext. (D.I.) Couple: guy’s head falls off. “White Lines.”
22.30 Pete: Crackhead bit me. Sort your life out, mate!
(PP1 Inner Journey / Love Story)
Sequence C: Remove head or destroy brain. (13mins)
25.30 Note to self: Go round mums – Get Liz Back – Sort Life out!
26.30 Corner shop: blood (D.I.). Doesn’t notice, leaves.
27.00 Street full of zombies & dead.
27.30 TV Reports. Ed: girl in the garden.
29.00 Girl: She’s so drunk! She’s impaled – but she comes back.
(PP1 Outer Journey / Zombie Story)
31.00 Calling. Have a sit down. Zombie inside.
33.00 TV Anchor advises: Removing head or destroying brain.
33.30 Outside, throwing stuff at zombies’ heads.
34.30 Knock one down. TV: symptoms ‘bitten’.
35.30 Pete out. Mum calls. Not bitten but Philip has been.
37.00 Plan: Go to Mum’s, kill Phil, Grab Liz. Go to the Winchester.
Sequence D: Saving Mum and Philip. (9mins)
38.30 Zombies outside. Shaun goes to Wee; Pete in shower.
40.30 Outside. Rush to car, avoid zombies. Drive off.
42.00 At Mum’s, Ed eyes Phil’s Jaguar. Shaun goes in. Ed stays with car.
43.00 I’ll deal with Philip. He’s watching TV, he is okay. Or not?
44.30 Shaun questions mum about Philip. “How much do you love him?”
46.00 Ed totalled car. Zombies attack, Philip bitten.
MID Sequence: Saving Liz & Co, losing Philip. (8mins)
47.00 Leaving Mum’s, Ed drives Jag. Shaun runs.
48.30 Zombies outside Liz’s. Shaun climbs up.
49.00 Take you somewhere safe. About Survival. To the Winchester!
51.00 Ed speeds off, dodging zombies. Shaun introduces: Liz/Mum.
52.30 Philip’s dying redemption: “Always loved you, Shaun.”
54.00 Philip zombie. Escaping from car. Surrounded. Walk.
Sequence E: Approaching the inmost cave (10mins)
55.00 All walking. David: where going? Other group with Yvonne.
57.00 Mum: Jill & Derrick live here. Derrick attacks & impaled.
59.00 Zombies surrounding Winchester.
60.00 Learning zombie behaviour.
61.00 Moving forward. Works. Door shut. Stay in character!
62.30 Ed takes phone call. Shaun angry. Distracts zombies.
64.00 They go in via broken window.
Sequence F: Inside the Cave / the Winchester (10mins)
64.30 Pub empty. Shaun has been gone for 20mins.
66.30 Having a drink. Shaun returns.
67.30 David doesn’t trust Shaun. Liz: plan?
69.00 Shaun switches electricity on. Zombies outside.
70.00 Shaun admits: zombies followed. Ed makes noise; surrounded.
71.00 Bartender zombie appears; “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Bartender out.
73.30 Gun is loaded. 29 shells.
Sequence G: The Ordeal (16mins)
74.00 Zombies come in. Liz looks after Barbara. She’s bitten.
77.00 Shaun & Mum. David wants to shoot her: She’s a zombie. Shaun: No!
78.00 Mexican standoff with bottles.
78.30 Shaun to David: You’re in love with Liz. David: you hero hypocrite!
80.00 Liz takes control: don’t fall apart. Mother is zombie, Shaun kills her.
81.00 David says sorry, Zombies come in, take David.
83.00 Full-blown zombie attack.
83.30 Ed is bitten by Pete. Shaun shoots him. Zombies close in.
85.30 Trapped in basement. Shaun redeems himself. Liz comforts him.
87.30 Ed: I want to be shot. Have a fag now.
89.30 Zombies come through – leaving the cave via lift.
Sequence H: Climax (2mins)
90.00 Going up, outside. Explosion. Army arrives.
Sequence I: Aftermath (2mins)
91.30 6 months on. TV report: Good use for zombies.
93.00 Shaun & Liz watch news report.
93.30 Shaun into garden shed. Gaming with Ed.
Note: D.I. = Dramatic Irony. This is information the audience sees but the character doesn’t.
For a broader look at the film, check out fellow blogger Merrel Davis’ piece “How do you Pegg it when you Wright?”
As usual, I will focus on the Hero and the key turning points.
Shaun’s strengths: he is funny and he loves Liz.
Shaun’s flaw’s: he is lazy, lacks responsibility and he loves the Winchester more than he loves his girlfriend.
Outer Journey: to get his girlfriend back.
Inner Journey: to grow up.
Note how – like in many successful movies – the hero needs to complete the Inner Journey before he can achieve his goal of the Outer Journey.
The first zombie action Shaun witnesses, is the man in the little park eating the pigeon. Before that, we saw other ‘weird’ events but none of them beyond logic.
Call to Adventure
When Liz hangs up the phone, Shaun knows he needs to act. But rather than take the appropriate action (sort his life out), he ‘refuses the call’ and tries to make her change her mind. Meanwhile, he also keeps refusing the call of the zombies.
The story has two mentors, who travel opposite journeys.
Pete steps in at the right time to tell Shaun he needs to get his act together (22:30). Right after that, Shaun rights the note to himself, which will propel him into action the next morning. This mentor will become a shapeshifter and attack Ed at the end of the story (83:30).
Despite his genuine advice to Shaun to bring his mum flowers (10:30), Philip starts as an antagonist. He turns out a shapeshifter when at the mid point he opens his heart and redeems himself (52:30). He was a mentor all along.
could be seen as mentors. Philip
Plot Point One / Crossing the First Threshold
Act One has a clear ending as it is the end of a day and we’re reminded of Shaun’s objectives the next morning: Go round mums – Get Liz Back – Sort Life out!. The Zombies will be the obstacle to achieving these objectives.
With the death of Philip, the first casualty within Shaun’s circle, things get a lot more serious. It is also a first symbolical step in his growing up: the loss of the father figure.
Plot Point Two / Ordeal and Reward
In order to grow up, Shaun will also have to let go of his mother. The death of David is important because he was interested in Liz. In a sense both characters could be seen as reasons why Shaun could not fully commit to Liz.
What follows feels like the final showdown with the zombies – and in a sense it is, as later the army does the job for our heroes – but within Shaun’s journey(s), we’re still in Act Two.
True to the genre, we have a long Ordeal scene, ending in the hero’s redemption. Only then does he find the controls for the lift (Reward) that will bring them outside safely.
Crossing the Threshold
Once outside, almost immediately we have an extremely brief climax when the army arrives and overpowers the zombies.
Aftermath / Return with the Elixir
We have a glimpse of Shaun’s new life with Liz – and his secret in the shed.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.