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All Of The Zombie Movie Rules That Shaun Of The Dead Follows

The first film in the now-classic Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy from writer/director Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead is a horror comedy that all zombie movie fans can agree is a must-see. Being fans of the George A. Romero series of films, actor Simon Pegg and Wright teamed up for the project after working together on the British sitcom Spaced. The movie not only began the trilogy of films which included Hot Fuzz and The World's End but put the comedic duo of Pegg and Nick Frost on the map for both British and American audiences.

Although Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious satire of zombie films, it's clear that the creators are huge lovers of the genre. Wright and Pegg even named the movie using Romero's formula of ending the title with "of the Dead." But the similarities don't stop there — the movie includes a number of nods to Romero's famous films, as well as the general rules of the zombie horror genre. Here are the rules for zombie movies that Shaun of the Dead made sure to follow.      

Aim for the head

Once pals Shaun (Pegg) and Ed (Frost) finally come to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is upon them, a news reporter on the television informs viewers what many fans of the horror genre already know: that the only way to stop the insatiable creatures is by "removing the head or destroying the brain." After whipping some vinyl records at their attackers proves to be futile (although hilarious), the two friends manage to equip themselves with more useful weapons, a shovel and a cricket bat, which they use to bash the zombies' brains in.

Of course, as many horror fans know, a shotgun is the preferred weapon of choice. Thankfully, the moniker of Shaun and Ed's favorite pub, The Winchester, proves to be more than just a name. A Winchester rifle displayed on the tavern's wall is the subject of debate among patrons as to whether or not the weapon is still usable — an question which is answered when Shaun accidentally fires it.

Don't use the "Z" word

One point that Shaun of the Dead calls attention to is a rather obvious trope of most modern zombie movies — the fact that the word "zombie" itself is never used. In early films of the genre, such as White Zombie (1932) starring horror great Bela Lugosi, the term was used to describe a form of mind control over the dead via voodoo practices. However, when George A. Romero came onto the scene with The Night of the Living Dead, the director redefined the term to mean animated corpses with a craving for human flesh, usually manifested through a deadly virus. 

Why the word is never used in Romero's films is up for speculation, but the generally accepted theory is that "zombies" are an unknown concept within the fictional universe. Apparently, it is known in Edgar Wright's world, however, as one scene in Shaun of the Dead presents. When Ed asks Shaun if there are any zombies outside, Shaun looks at his friend in horror. "Don't say that," he chides, "The zed word [...] because it's ridiculous!"

Sometimes, people are worse than zombies

A theme that is often presented in various zombie mediums, such as Romero's Dead films and more recently in The Walking Dead TV series, is that humans are often a bigger threat to humanity than the flesh-eating monsters. For Shaun of the Dead, the monster in their midst is David (Dylan Moran), who obviously has a thing for Shaun's girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), even though he's dating her friend Dianne (Lucy Davis).

While David is not quite as threatening a villain as the nefarious Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) of The Walking Dead, he does demonstrate the selfishness and desperate lengths that some humans are capable of. David tries to undermine Shaun at every turn, resentful that his rival has taken on the leadership role. He even points the Winchester rifle at Shaun's mother after the discovery that she has been infected, leading to a tense standoff between himself and Shaun wherein David appears all too eager to pull the trigger ... on Shaun, that is.

The "walking dead" shuffle

Another trope of zombie movies which was hilariously satirized in Shaun of the Dead is the famous zombie walk. The slow-moving, staggering, blank-faced expressions of the walking dead, not to mention moaning with their arms outstretched, has become the widely accepted standard in both comedies and horror.

This stapled feature of zombie films is showcased more than once in Shaun of the Dead, first as the movie's choreographed opener and again when Shaun stumbles into the room after waking up in the morning. But perhaps one of the funniest scenes comes in one of the later moments of the film when Dianne, an amateur actor, helps the gang to find their inner zombie in order to blend in with the massive crowd of undead. She demonstrates with a nearby impaled, yet still moving, example: "Look at the face. It's vacant, with a hint of sadness — like a drunk who's lost a bet." Each member of the group goes in turn to practice their own moves in order to walk among the mob of the living dead.