Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
Back in the summer of 2012, the red band trailer for Cockneys vs Zombies set a very high benchmark and certainly raised expectations for the final movie. The title itself was also somewhat of a gamble, either raising a wry smile among horror fans or eliciting a roll of the eyes and a deep sigh for a genre in decline. I was unable to attend the premier at Frighfest 2012, but the general feedback at the time was that that that the movie was extremely well received by horror fans. Finally, six years later, I finally caught up with the film on Amazon Prime and I’m happy to report that Cockneys vs Zombies does live up expectations and is a thoroughly entertaining, quirky and very British horror movie. It manages to balance both visceral horror with a healthy dose of black humour, which is no mean feat.
Is Cockneys vs Zombies a ground-breaking genre classic with a subtext of social commentary like George Romero's Dawn of the Dead? Of course not. It’s a lot closer to Return of the Living Dead and Sean of the Dead with its comedy violence and offbeat, quirky characters. It does not redefine the genre, but it certainly embellishes it and offers entertaining new slant. The screenplay by James Moran is witty and packed with clever homages and references to both horror and gangster movies. The cast both young and old acquit themselves well and the visual effects and production design are impressive for a modest budget production. The undead meet a multitude of unpleasant demises, often accompanied by a pithy quip. Full marks go to director Matthias Hoene for correctly ascertaining what audiences want and delivering it in spades.
The central plot device (or MacGuffin) of Cockneys vs Zombies is a group of senior citizens fighting the undead and defending their residential care home. It’s a simple idea that works extremely well. The likes of Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton and Honor Blackman effortlessly inject humour and pathos in to their characters, demonstrating their collective acting talent. Alan Ford excels with a new variation of the traditional East End hard man that he has played many times before. It is with these actors that James Moran's screenplay really finds its stride. The dialogue is profane, dry and filled with the most tortuous Cockney rhyming slang ever. It is also well observed, honest and very entertaining. The secondary plot in which a group of younger protagonists attempts to rob a bank to raise fund for their grandparent’s care home, is not quite so compelling.
Cockneys vs Zombies achieves it aims because it does not over stretch itself. The movie is content to work within the parameters it sets and make great use of its London setting. So many horror films these days fail because they lose sight of what they are about or because they are made by people who fundamentally disrespect the genre. Cockneys vs Zombies is the complete opposite and is clearly a labour of love. There's no parody or self-referential postmodern pretension. Just honest humour and a lot of zombie-based gore. It’s far from subtle, but who wants subtlety in a zombie movie?