I'm a big fan of the George A.Romero zombie trilogy, and also of the Spaced TV series, so a comedy parody of Romero by the creators of Spaced pretty much gets a couple of stars head start before I have even seen it.
I didn't see the film in the cinema, so it was all new to me. Given British TV's habit of spawning naff films I was a bit wary, but needn't have worried. The first part of the film is really just like a big screen version of Spaced with only a few little hints in the background of the trouble brewing and lots of big laughs. The film then moves into the slightly strange territory which Spaced sometimes inhabited when the main characters start to realise that there are really Zombies on the move. When the action really starts the overt comedy is reined in a bit to let the pace pick up, which is about right: by then you are more interested in what happens next than in where the next joke is coming from.
Simon Pegg makes the transition from small to large screen well, and more surprisingly Dylan Moran does too. Much as Black Books is brilliant, Moran is still basically acting out his stand-up persona. here he is much more rounded character.
Fans of recent British TV comedy will have fun spotting all the actors from The Office, League of Gentlemen and Black Books turning up in roles ranging from major to blink-and-you-miss-it.
I can't really comment on the picture quality as my TV is on the way out, but the use of surround sound is very effective on this disc. During the seige scenes there is a permanent presence of zombie moans and scratching coming from all around to add to the atmosphere.
So, the film is a hit, but what about the disc? Its as good as you would expect from writers and directors who are big fans of the DVD medium, and one of the most loaded single discs you are likely to come across. The extras include 4 full-length commentaries, video diaries from several actors, outtakes and extended scenes as well as the now traditional photo galleries, making-of, TV spots and trailers.
Some of the less conventional extras are a run through of the original story idea on a flip chart, plot holes explained in comic strips with actor voiceovers, and one scene acted in the styles of Sean Connery and Michael Caine in The Man Who Would Be King. The flip chart extra is especially interesting as it pre-dates the filming, and even the full script-writing. Some of the original plot ideas or back story details didn't make it to the film, but its impressive how many details from the original conceptual stage made it all the way through, which says something about the completeness of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's original vision.
The thoroughness of the extras is exemplified in what the menu calls the "TV Bits". At various points in the film the characters watch a bit of television, and even though only a few seconds might appear in the film they actually made TV segments of several minutes which are included in full on the disc. And there are some 2000AD comic strips, poster designs, and loads more. There are even some extra extras, not listed on the box, which are tucked away in the sub-title options - a storyboard comparison and the Zomb-o-meter. The zomb-o-meter is a trivia track which lists everything from what the music is on the soundtrack and where a scene was filmed, to what films are being referenced and what game is being played on the Playstation. (Just like the feature on the DVD of the 2nd series of Spaced but even more informative.)
I am already more than satisfied with this film and disc, and I haven't had time to listen to the commentaries yet. Pegg already proved on the Spaced DVDs that he can do an essential talk track - essential to point out all the film references if nothing else - and he features on two of the commentary tracks: one with co-writer and director Edgar Wright, and the other with the main actors. The third commentary is my Shaun's parents (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) and the last track is by actors who played Zombies.
In a recent interview Simon Pegg mentioned that George A. Romero himself liked the film, and if its good enough for him its certainly good enough for me. Roll on the sequel!