Analysis of Shaun of the Dead

Summary The movie follows Shaun, a man stuck in his mundane routines and struggling with his relationship with his girlfriend Liz. When a zombie outbreak occurs, Shaun and his group, including his best friend Ed, must fight to survive and seek safety at their local pub, The Winchester. Along the way, they encounter various challenges and personal struggles, ultimately leading to a final showdown where they must defend themselves and find a way out. In the end, some of the survivors are rescued by a military convoy and live a happy, zombie-free life together, while others do not make it out alive.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique Overall, the story of 'Shaun of the Dead' successfully blends horror with comedy and creates a relatable, likeable protagonist. The characters are well-developed and the dialogue is entertaining. However, the plot can become repetitive at times and lacks a strong sense of direction in the middle. The ending feels rushed and the final scene may disappoint some viewers.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, consider tightening up the middle portion and creating a clearer sense of direction. The ending could benefit from a stronger build-up and a more satisfying conclusion. Additionally, exploring deeper themes or character conflicts could add layers to the story and keep it engaging throughout.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Shaun

Shaun is a likable, but somewhat aimless guy who is initially content with a dead-end life. He shows compassion for others, has a tendency to avoid responsibility and commitment, and struggles with personal issues in his relationships. However, as the zombie outbreak worsens, Shaun steps up to become a leader and protector of his friends and loved ones. Despite his flaws, he is resourceful, brave, and fiercely protective of his mother and loved ones.



Liz

Liz is a strong-willed, intelligent, and capable character who is initially fed up with Shaun's broken promises and lack of effort in their relationship. She is a voice of reason in the group, trying to keep everyone calm and focused on their survival. Liz has a strong bond with Shaun and tries to balance her loyalty to him with her concern for her mother. She is conflicted about her feelings for David but ultimately prioritizes the immediate problem at hand. Liz struggles to find her place in this new world and often balances being skeptical of Shaun's plans with trusting him.



Ed

Ed is Shaun's best friend and comedic relief throughout the movie. He is lazy, unmotivated, and often immature, preferring to play video games rather than take on household duties. He brings humor to tense situations but can also be callous and impatient. Despite his flaws, he proves to be a loyal and valuable ally to Shaun and the group during the zombie outbreak, displaying moments of bravery and quick thinking. He ultimately sacrifices himself for the survival of the group.



Dianne

Dianne is a practical, quick-thinking, and resourceful woman. She is supportive of Shaun and the group's plan to survive the zombie apocalypse. Dianne is level-headed, kind, loyal, and a good friend. She is also a skilled dart player and unexpectedly proves to have gun experience. She has a quieter presence at times but is always willing to help and offer support to the group.



Pete

Pete is a responsible and frustrated character who takes charge of domestic duties and expresses his anger towards Ed's lack of contribution. He is a bit of a bully towards him and seems to have a not-so-hidden anger towards Shaun. Pete lacks ambition and seems content with their current situation.



Barbara

Barbara is Shaun's caring and maternal mother. She is torn between loyalty to her husband, Philip, and concern for her family's safety during the zombie outbreak. She struggles to come to terms with Philip's transformation into a zombie. Barbara is dazed and traumatized from the zombie attack but is able to follow the group. She is sorry for the group's predicament and apologizes to Shaun for the zombie attack. Barbara is elderly and somewhat scatterbrained, but she also demonstrates moments of bravery. She is generally nonverbal in one scene, suggesting that she is in a state of shock or disorientation. She is bitten by a zombie and tries to hide it from the group, eventually turning into a zombie and sparking a debate about how to handle loved ones who have turned.



Philip

Philip is a dismissive and stubborn stepfather who prioritizes his own safety over others. He has a strained relationship with Shaun and dislikes him, often being overprotective of his belongings. He is weak due to an injury but tries to assert his dominance over Shaun. He watches religious programming earlier on and is shown to be dismissive of the zombie outbreak at the beginning.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Shaun Shaun's character arc in the film involves his transformation from a slacker without ambition to a brave and determined leader who will do whatever it takes to protect his loved ones. This transformation occurs as a result of the zombie outbreak, which forces Shaun to confront his personal shortcomings and learn how to be responsible and decisive. Through his experiences, Shaun gains a deeper understanding of himself and his relationships with others, ultimately learning to embrace his role as a protector and leader. Overall, Shaun's character arc is well-executed and provides a compelling story of personal growth and transformation. However, some aspects of the arc could be further developed, particularly in terms of how Shaun's personal issues and relationships are resolved. Additionally, some of Shaun's actions in the film, particularly in regards to his treatment of his stepfather, can be problematic and could be addressed to provide a more nuanced portrayal of the character.
To improve Shaun's character arc, it might be helpful to explore how his personal issues and relationships develop over time, particularly as he takes on a leadership role. This could be done through more focused scenes or dialogue that delve into these topics. Additionally, Shaun's treatment of his stepfather could be addressed in a more nuanced and compassionate way to avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes. Finally, adding moments of self-reflection and introspection could add depth to Shaun's character and help make his transformation more impactful.
Liz Liz begins as Shaun's frustrated girlfriend who craves real effort and commitment from him. Throughout the movie, she evolves into a strong-willed and capable partner who supports and encourages Shaun to keep fighting. Liz initially resists Shaun's leadership but eventually comes around and becomes a key member of the group. She's tough and resourceful, but also has a softer side that comes out when she's alone with Shaun. By the end of the movie, Liz is a survivor who has found her place in this new world. The character arc for Liz is well-done in terms of showing her evolution from a frustrated girlfriend to a capable partner. However, her arc could have been more fleshed out. We don't see a lot of Liz's internal struggles or thoughts, and her actions sometimes feel more reactive than proactive. Additionally, there are a few contradictions in her character - she is both skeptical of Shaun's plans but also supportive and encouraging. These contradictions could have been fleshed out a little more for a more well-rounded character.
To improve Liz's arc, it could be helpful to show more of her internal struggles and thought process. We could see more of her grappling with her feelings for Shaun and David, and her struggles to find her place in this new world. Additionally, it could be helpful to flesh out some of the contradictions in her character - why is she both skeptical of Shaun's plans but supportive and encouraging at the same time? Lastly, giving Liz more proactive moments could make her feel like more of an active participant in the story, rather than a reactive one.
Ed Ed's character arc involves a journey from an immature slacker to a true friend and valuable member of the group. He starts off dismissive and unenthusiastic, but shows remorse and loyalty when confronted by Shaun. Throughout the movie, he displays moments of bravery and quick thinking, proving his worth to the group. His ultimate sacrifice shows that he has fully transformed from a lazy slacker into a brave and selfless friend. While Ed's character provides much-needed comic relief to the movie, his transformation from a slacker to a hero feels rushed and underdeveloped. His decision to sacrifice himself could have been more impactful if the movie had given more emphasis to his character development throughout the story.
To improve Ed's character arc, the movie could have focused more on his transformation from an immature slacker to a true friend. His moments of bravery and quick thinking could have been highlighted more, showing his growth and development. Additionally, the sacrifice could have been foreshadowed more and given more weight to make it a truly impactful moment in the movie.
Dianne Dianne's character arc starts off as a background character, but as the story progresses, she becomes more active and takes charge in certain situations. She initially doubts Shaun's plan but eventually agrees to it, showing her trust in him and the group. Dianne comes up with several plans and strategies to help the group survive, showing her resourcefulness and quick-thinking. In the end, she sacrifices herself to save David, whom she has grown to care for deeply, showing her loyalty and bravery. Although Dianne is a well-written character, her arc could have been more developed. She is often a background character and doesn't have much personal growth throughout the story. Her sacrifices are powerful, but they feel more like plot devices rather than a natural progression of her character.
To improve Dianne's arc, she could have more moments of personal growth and development. Perhaps she could have a moment where she faces her own fears or doubts, showing a more vulnerable side. Additionally, her sacrifice could have more emotional weight if it ties back to her personal growth and relationships with the other characters.
Pete Throughout the movie, Pete's frustration grows as Ed continues to be lazy and unhelpful, causing tension between the three friends. As the zombie apocalypse takes over the town, Pete's leadership skills become more apparent as he takes charge of the group's safety and survival. However, as the situation becomes more dire, Pete's anger and frustration cause him to make irrational decisions that put the group in danger. In the end, Pete sacrifices himself to save the others, redeeming himself and showing a selfless side that was not previously seen. The character arc for Pete is well-developed, but it would benefit from delving deeper into his motivations and inner turmoil. While his frustration and leadership skills are apparent, his lack of ambition could be explored further to add more depth to his character. Additionally, the redemption at the end may feel a bit forced and could be foreshadowed throughout the movie.
To improve the character arc for Pete, it may be helpful to explore his backstory and reasons for lacking ambition. Adding more nuance to his interactions with Ed and Shaun could also add depth to his character. Foreshadowing his sacrifice throughout the movie through subtle actions or discussions could make the final act more impactful.
Barbara Barbara's character arc in the screenplay revolves around her inner conflict between loyalty and safety. At the beginning of the movie, she is torn between her loyalty to her husband and her concern for her family's safety in the zombie outbreak. Throughout the movie, Barbara repeatedly gives in to her loyalty to Philip, even when it goes against the group's safety. However, after being bitten and turning into a zombie herself, she sets off a debate about how to handle loved ones who have turned. This moment of self-sacrifice ultimately allows Barbara to resolve her inner conflict as she realizes the importance of safety over loyalty. Barbara's character arc feels somewhat underdeveloped. While her inner conflict is introduced early on and she demonstrates moments of bravery and conflict, her turning into a zombie and sparking the debate about how to handle loved ones who have turned feels somewhat sudden and rushed. It would benefit from further exploration and development throughout the movie.
To improve Barbara's character arc, the movie could show more moments of inner conflict and struggle as she tries to balance loyalty to Philip and concern for the group's safety. Additionally, showing more moments of Barbara's bravery and self-sacrifice throughout the movie could make her transformation and sparking the debate feel more impactful and earned.
Philip At the start, Philip is dismissive of the zombie outbreak and prioritizes his own safety over others. However, after being bitten and turning into a zombie himself, he becomes a threat to the group's safety. In turn, this forces the group to work together to escape and survive. This ultimately leads Shaun and Philip to reconcile, with Shaun showing compassion towards his stepfather's fate. Overall, the character arc for Philip is effective in showcasing his change from prioritizing himself to becoming a threat to the group's safety. However, it would have been more impactful if there was more emphasis on his strained relationship with Shaun before he turned into a zombie. This would have made their reconciliation more meaningful and emotional.
To improve Philip's character arc, there could be more flashbacks or scenes that delve into his relationship with Shaun to establish the root of the conflict between them. Additionally, adding a scene where Shaun tries to save Philip and ultimately fails, leading to his death and transformation into a zombie, would add more weight to their reconciliation and the group's mission to survive.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Routine vs. ChangeShaun’s girlfriend expresses her boredom with their routine and desire for change, but Shaun appears uninterested.This theme explores the tension between maintaining a comfortable routine and the desire for change and excitement. Shaun's girlfriend represents the desire for change, while Shaun's reluctance represents the comfort of routine.
Responsibility and ContributionPete expresses frustration with Ed's lack of contribution to the household, while Shaun's subordinates at work do not take their job seriously.This theme explores the importance of responsibility and contribution in daily life. Pete is frustrated with Ed's lack of help around the house, while Shaun's subordinates at work show a lack of responsibility. Both instances suggest that individual responsibility and contribution are essential for society to function properly.
Survival and ResilienceShaun and Ed panic in Shaun's house during a zombie outbreak. They encounter zombies and must defend themselves.This theme explores the human instinct for survival and resilience in the face of adversity. As Shaun and Ed navigate a zombie outbreak, they must use all their wits and resources to survive and ultimately reach safety. This theme demonstrates the incredible strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme circumstances.
Leadership and ResponsibilityShaun confronts Philip and is forced to take charge when he is bitten during a zombie attack. The group arrives at a forecourt filled with zombies. They narrowly escape and confront Stepfather Philip.This theme explores the importance of leadership and responsibility in times of crisis. As Shaun takes charge of the group during a zombie attack, he must make difficult decisions that affect the safety and survival of himself and his loved ones. This theme demonstrates the power and responsibility of true leadership in times of crisis.
Friendship and LoyaltyShaun and Ed drown their sorrows at the pub but are attacked by zombies. Shaun and Ed pick up their loved ones, kill a zombie, and arrive at the safe haven of the Winchester pub.This theme explores the strength of friendship and loyalty in the face of danger and crisis. Shaun and Ed's friendship is tested throughout the film, as they face extreme circumstances and must protect their loved ones. This theme demonstrates the unbreakable bond of true friendship in the face of adversity.
Fear and Overcoming AdversityThe group is reunited and discusses their next steps, including defending themselves from a zombie invasion while waiting for help. They struggle to cope with fear, conflict, and difficult decisions, including putting down a friend who turned into a zombie.This theme explores the power of fear and the resilience required to overcome adversity. The group faces fear and conflict throughout the film, but ultimately must overcome their fear in order to survive. This theme demonstrates the incredible strength of the human spirit in the face of fear and adversity.
Family and IdentityShaun and his gang fend off zombies and use zombie impressions to try and reach safety at The Winchester pub. After breaking a window to enter, they must hide from the surrounding horde. The group is reunited and discusses their next steps, including defending themselves from a zombie invasion while waiting for help.This theme explores the importance of family and identity in times of crisis. As Shaun and his gang navigate a zombie outbreak, they must come to terms with their family relationships and their own personal identities. This theme demonstrates the importance of family and identity in shaping who we are and the decisions we make.
Comedy and HorrorThe scene is tense, but has comedic elements.This theme explores the pairing of seemingly opposite genres, in this case, horror and comedy. The film balances moments of intense horror with moments of comedic relief, creating a unique viewing experience for the audience. This theme demonstrates the power of combining contrasting elements to create something new and interesting.
Hope and RedemptionDespite losing members of the group and suffering setbacks, Shaun, Liz, and Ed fight to escape the zombie outbreak and are eventually rescued by the military. Six months later, they have a chance to live a normal life.This theme explores the power of hope and redemption in the face of extreme adversity. Despite facing numerous setbacks, Shaun, Liz, and Ed never lose hope and ultimately find redemption in the form of survival and a chance at a normal life. This theme demonstrates the incredible strength of the human spirit in the face of even the most dire circumstances.
Love and RelationshipsLiz becomes tired of Shaun's apologies without effort to change.This theme explores the complexities of love and relationships, as Shaun and Liz navigate their respective desires and needs. Liz becomes tired of Shaun's apologies without effort to change, highlighting the importance of effort and action in sustaining healthy relationships. This theme demonstrates the importance of communication and effort in maintaining healthy, loving relationships.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals Shaun's internal goal evolves from reconnection with Liz to finding purpose and meaning in his life
External Goals Shaun's external goal evolves from rebooking a reservation to leading his group to safety
Philosophical Conflict The philosophical conflict revolves around embracing change and finding meaning in life


Character Development Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to Shaun's growth from a stagnant and apathetic individual to a responsible and heroic leader

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflicts drive the plot forward, creating tension and obstacles for the protagonist to overcome

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts explore themes of personal growth, the value of relationships, and the search for purpose in life


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?