Monday, 4 November 2013

Cockneys vs Zombies - review

2012 (UK)

Contains spoilers.

So these two geezers right, their old granddad is in a bit of old barney rubble as his old care home is going to be knocked down to make room for some fucking yuppie high-rise, so they've decide to do some apple bobbing to sort it out. It all goes a bit Pete Tong and the old bill turn up, but that's not the real problem, you see me old china. The fucking problem, is two chancers thinking it peachy to disturb some brown bread in some old crypt, only unleash a chuffing Trafalgar plague, didn't they.

If you can handle all the cockney twang, enjoy a good British non-serious comedy action horror and like zombies, gore and lots of bloodshed then director Matthias Hoene's homage to Night of the Living Dead cum Shaun of the Dead might just be for you. It's fun, airy, light hearted, there's good dialogue and chemistry between the varied characters and there's enough guts, blood and carnage to satisfy any gore hounds cravings. I've seen it described as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets Shaun of the Dead and honestly if they'd just added 'guns' between cockneys and zombies the title would say all you needed to know.

I'll admit I was a tad wary going into this as watching lary bad mouthed east-enders really isn't my cup of tea and whether it's rhyming slang, pearly kings and queens or the glorification of two particular vile gangsters there's nothing quite like insular self-aggrandising, in my mind, to spoil a good party. I needn't have worried though as yes, it's one hundred percent cockney and yes it's chock full of all the east-end charm I've just been bitching about, but Hoene and the writers and producers have managed to pitch it so that cockneyism is in on the joke as much as it's blowing smoke up its own arse.

Now for a translation of that basic story I outlined in the first paragraph. Alan Ford is Ray MacGuire, an east-end retired hard-man with a permanent facial snarl and penchant for swearing, who is seeing out his days in the Bow Bells care home in the heart of the east-end. Like much of old London his retirement home is set to be demolished to make way for a brand new high rise development and he has three weeks until he and his friends are to be relocated up t'north. Unbeknown to him, his good natured, if dim witted grandsons', Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy MacGuire (Harry Treadaway) have come up with a plan to save the day by robbing a local bank with the help with their cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan), their incompetent friend Davey Tuppence (Jack Doolan) and Ashley 'Mental' Mickey (Bashy Thomas) the local brain damaged nutter (literally) who just happens to be the only person they know with guns.

Inevitably, the robbery goes wrong, the police show, there's panic, arguments and Mickey takes it upon himself to blast his way out grabbing two hostages, Emma (Georgia King) and Clive (Tony Gardner) only to discover that while they've been working out what to do their little corner of London has been hit by the zombie tsunami. Their plan, and the plot of the film is now straightforward. Survival, guns and rescue granddad.

Well it is and it isn't. As well as focusing on the conflicted and out of the depth cockney robbers and their hostages now holed up at Terry and Andy's lock-up there's a second narrative focused on Ray and residents of the care home as it too comes under siege. It's here Hoene is able to be slightly more playful not only with delightful slap stick set pieces and comic dialogue from veteran actors including Honor Blackman and Richard Briers, but by contrasting and poking fun at traditional zombie tropes such as there slow pace vs the geriatric old timers complete with their replacement hips and zimmer frames. There always a fine line being walked when parody is in play, but Hoene gets it right acknowledging all the inherent absurdity while always remaining respectful, much like Pegg and Wright did with Shaun of the Dead; and also in many ways like he does with 'cockneys'.

I do like it when directors understand that if you get the zombie right, it doesn't half help allowing the characters and action to shine. Included on the Blu-ray is the five minute video that was shown to all 526 zombie extras explaining the basic rules of zombie behaviour and movement, or zombicality as they put it. Very slow movement, stagger not swagger, lift legs from the hips, have your arms flailing and let gravity guide movement are all mentioned and the cast of extras follow the doctrine perfectly capturing London in all its tipped bin, newspaper strewn, background flesh munching, apocalyptic splendour.

They're your slow gait Romero zombies, though as the very recently deceased there's only the slightest shade of blue. They hunger for flesh, they're definitely dead and anything other than a head-shot and they'll still keep dragging themselves forward. They're well made up with a fun goofy back story that finally puts to rest the question of what happens when all the skin rots and falls off (they turn in skeletons like in Tombs of the Blind Dead). Other than that it's business as usual; bite, infect, turn (& die) and look to pass it all on. The make-up and effects are striking and the streets are awash with guts and blood and it all looks great.

Cockneys vs Zombies knows what it is and delivers. It's lively, action packed, explosive and gore laden but as excessive and in bad taste as some of the sequences are there's always the pinch of salt allowing them to get away with them. Hoene pitches the comedy with the action and gore perfectly never allowing one to take over and the back and forth between the two narratives is coherent and they meet up just at the right time. It's not perfect, for all it's originality; in story, characters and some of the extravagant zombie deaths, by being a parody means staying tight to the genre staples and it can't help but feel a tad derivative and stale at times. There's also a few throw away jokes that don't quite and skits that don't come off. All in all though, a thoroughly enjoyable ride; with much to commend. I'll Bobby Moore it 7/10.



  1. I loved this... especially the slowest chase scene in cinematic history :)

  2. I was really surprised by this one. I went into it thinking it was going to be a zombie movie that is just cheap and made to exploit zombie fans but I thought it was just hilarious, brilliant and fun.

    1. Absolutely. I was quite hesitant too but needn't have been as it's smart, fresh and fun.