Shaun of the Dead mixes humor and horror in a different way from other funny/scary movies we've seen. It's not a parody like Scary Movie or a deconstruction like Scream. It's not way over the top like the Evil Dead movies. Call it a Rom Zom Com a romantic zombie comedy. Shaun is just a guy who wants to get his old life back, and if that means rescuing Liz (Kate Ashfield) and their friends while fighting off the living dead, that's what he's going to do.
Zombies don't do anything funny in the movie, aside from being zombies. The humor comes from how Shaun and his pack of friends handle the impending apocalypse. When Shaun and Ed (Nick Frost) stagger out of the pub, they don't notice the zombie couple sucking face, literally. When a flesh-hungry ghoul finally attacks in their back yard, they try to cut off its head by throwing LP's. Fortunately, the zombie was slow enough for Shaun to save his Stone Roses, and throw Dire Straits instead.
Shaun never forgets it's a horror movie though. Instead of using its laughs to gloss over the scares, the actors and writers use the comedy to hit you even harder. By the time Shaun and his band of zombie killers hole up in the neighborhood pub, we care about them. We like them. When the zombie hordes start killing our new friends (and in some pretty nasty ways), we're invested in the characters.
Shaun of the Dead's cast won't be familiar unless you've seen a British sitcom Spaced. (I haven't.) While Spaced wasn't as big as Friends, imagine Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc making a movie where they play new characters and David Schwimmer directs. Americans should recognize at least one face. Bill Nighy was aging rock star Billy Mack in Love Actually. Here, he's Shaun's deadpan stepdad, who may or may not be a zombie.
In the UK, Shaun of the Dead is already out on DVD and has become a quotable cult classic. The same should happen here in the United States. Shaun of the Dead is both a romantic comedy that's actually funny and a horror movie with genuine scares. Most movies can't even get one of the two right.