Admittedly, I've known it before: The British do extremely good dark comedies. But after watching both "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", I'm more certain than before.
Take "Shaun of the Dead". Ever since "Night of the Living Dead", created by George Romero, zombie-movies have been part of horror mainstream - at least among the splatter movies. But, as I expected after seeing another movie by the same 'dream team', the British answer to Romero's horror stories is something special.
Shaun is an ordinary guy. He lives with two pals in a little house in the suburbs, has a girlfriend and works in the local electronic market. Shaun's life is always running along the same lines: Stand up, go to buy some coke in a little shop around the corner, drive to work, come back home, go to the local pub - the "Winchester" - and then home again. His best friend Ed is unemployed - or so it seems. As the story begins, Shaun is ditched by his girlfriend because he doesn't really make an effort in their relationship. His stepfather - whom he can't stand - goes on about his behaviour towards his mother and his other pal doesn't like the idea of Ed living with them (because he doesn't seem to pay any rent and doesn't work anywhere, not even at home).
And then strange things happen. Zombies turn up, the living dead who attack and kill people, bite and eat them. Shaun, Ed, Shaun's ex-girlfriend Liz, two of her friends and Shaun's mother find themselves hunted by the zombies (although the zombies hunt very, very, very, very slow). The group gets decimated. First it's Shaun's stepfather, then his mother - who's been bitten and turns into a zombie after dying -, then it's the two friends and finally Ed. Shaun and Liz make it, though, and some zombies 'survive' in a way, doing jobs nobody wants to do anyway.
There's a lot of references to other movies, naturally. The one I found most amusing (as Shaun is working as a vendor) is the remark that the boss and his second-in-command Ash are off sick - as Ash is also the main character of the "Evil Dead" movies and games (and he works in a supermarket). Well, he's off sick, so Shaun has to do his best alone.
"Hot Fuzz" on the other hand is a parody of all the cop-movies Hollywood has produced. A lot of the are actually named by one of the main characters. Director Edgar Wright - who also directed "Shaun of the Dead" - worked with the same dream-team as before: Simon Pegg (also played Shaun) and Nick Frost (who played Ed).
Nickolas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a perfect cop. His success-rate is four hundred percent higher than that of his colleagues in London. Therefore he has to go. He's promoted and sent off to the small town of Sandford - where there hasn't been a murder for more than twenty years. After he has arrested a couple of teenagers and a drunk even before his first day of work, he has to find out the next day that the drunk is his new partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), son of the local chief of police. Danny has never as much as set a foot outside Sandford, but he has watched all the big action movies Hollywood has produced during the last couple of years.
Everything in the town seems to run smooth and perfectly. Most of the students of the local school are good kids. Everyone has work - or at least a source of income. There's a fund raise running for the local church's roof. There's nice, little shops and a supermarket that is a bit larger, but still doesn't look like the huge markets you could get somewhere else. There's an amateur drama club, of course. There's a local newspaper and so on. The town has won a price for being the perfect little town for years.
But just as Nickolas is about to give up and let go of his police instincts, it happens: an accident, two horrible amateur actors killed in a car crash - or so it seems. Both beheaded. Nickolas doesn't buy it, but everyone else does. Then the head of the local construction firm dies when his house (not exactly build in typical country style) explodes due to gas. While the other cops in town still do believe in accidents, Nick starts to investigates. The editor and chief reporter of the local newspaper wants to tell him something - and dies in front of his eyes, supposedly another accident. And on it goes. Nick meets the killer, a hooded figure with an axe. He thinks it must have been the boss of the local supermarket - but he's wrong. Most of the leading figures of the town are involved - including the head of police. And in the end it's Nick, Danny and the other cops against most of the towns 'better' citizens.
Both movies have a high gore-factor. But apart from litres of blood and a high body count, they also are extremely funny. That's partly due to the actors and partly to the stories.
While neither "Hot Fuzz" nor "Shaun of the Dead" are something for people with a weak stomach, you can have a lot of fun with those movies. And the more other movies of that type you've seen already, the better they get.