Monday, October 21, 2013

Cockneys vs. Zombies

Other than found footage flicks, if there is a horror sub-genre that is being exploited to the point of infuriation it’s ones of the zombie variety. Seriously, do a search through Netflix’s streaming options. You’ll find that every fourth horror movie is about the undead. It’s insane. I love me a good zombie yarn, but the market is so oversaturated with them right now that they have completely lost their spark. Sure, once in a while one comes along and reinvigorates my enthusiasm. Shaun of the Dead, Dead Snow, 28 Days/Weeks Later, Planet Terror and some of the Resident Evil movies keep my spirits high for the genre, and now I can add the horror comedy Cockneys vs. Zombies to the list of winners.

A group of thieves from London’s East End, who have just robbed a bank in order to obtain enough money to save a local retirement home, must survive a zombie apocalypse that erupts from within their own town.
I will get this out of the way first – yes, Cockneys vs. Zombies is definitely inspired by Shaun of the Dead. The goofball sense of humor is there, the gore is there and it does feel like it belongs within that film’s universe at times. That’s not saying that this is a rip-off. It’s not. It is its own animal and should not draw any major comparisons aside from the fact that it has zombies invading Great Britain.

Writers James Moran (Tower Block) & Lucas Roche smartly keep the script’s tongue planted firmly in cheek and don’t keep the characters ignorant of the existence of zombie lore and the many films that document it. It’s a rare thing to find a flick where the characters take one look at these shuffling undead types and say, “Fuck. Zombies.”, so believe me when I say it was quite a refreshing change-up from the typical plotline where the characters run around screaming “What are these things?!” constantly. The comedy comes from an organic place most of the time, the characters are fun and entertainingly flawed and the story moves by at a zippy pace for the most part. There are some issues with the way certain characters fit into the mix and such, but it’s not that big of a deal.
This is director Matthias Hoene’s first feature, and I have to admit it is mighty impressive. He has a handle on keeping the comedy, horror and drama in balance as well as making sure his actors are putting all of their efforts into the characters. He also knows when to go for the gross out or to go for a laugh when it comes to the violence. There were times where I grimaced and other times when I cackled like a drunk at some of the stuff that flashed before my eyes. He thankfully keeps the events feeling very comic booky, which goes a long way to amp up the entertainment factor in my eyes. This guy is going places and could be the next Edgar Wright if he plays his cards right.

The actors are all very well cast in their respective parts and are all gifted comedic actors for the most part. While the two leads, Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway as brothers Terry and Andy respectively, are both incredibly fun to watch play off of each other as they bicker and act clueless, it’s the older cast members that are the most memorable. Alan Ford (Snatch) and ex-Bond girl Honor Blackman (Goldfinger) are a blast to watch as members of a retirement home assaulted by the undead. All the elderly characters are fun and were given some great one-liners and even an action scene or two. I know I’ll never forget the scene with the gent trying to slowly run away from an advancing horde because he uses a walker. It was also nice seeing Michelle Ryan (The Bionic Woman) once again, and hearing her natural accent was a plus too. She makes for a great action heroine and I’m surprised I don’t find her in films more often. Ashley Thomas looks to be having a blast as the unstable Mental Mickey and he made for a great unpredictable element to the core cast.
I wasn’t fond of the character of Davey, played by Jack Doolan. He just seemed to be there to take up space and be in the way, which is the point of the Mental Mickey character. Therefore his part ended up being redundant and was included just to have some ongoing jokes about his character being a bumbling moron. The bank hostage characters were also a little annoying, but not nearly as much as Davey. Some of the humor was also a little “too British” in that it refers to pop culture and events that only fellow Brits would comprehend. This is always the case for movies from across the pond, as I’m sure American made movies feel overseas at times as well. None of these elements are deal breakers, just mild annoyances.

This is one of the few surprises I’ve stumbled across lately, and I’m glad I did. I read a very negative review of Cockneys vs. Zombies a while back that pretty much turned me off altogether. Thankfully I’m willing to give anything a go at one point or another. This was one fun and goofy entry into the overcrowded zombie sub-genre that I’m sure I will want to watch again a few times. It’s a keeper.

3.5 out of 5

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