The red band trailer for Cockneys vs Zombies set a very high benchmark for the final movie. The title itself was somewhat of a gamble too, either raising a wry smile 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 was that that it was extremely well received by horror fans. After catching up with a screening today, I am happy to report that Cockneys vs Zombies does live up to expectations and is a thoroughly entertaining, quirky and very British horror movie.
Is it a ground breaking genre classic with a subtext of social commentary like George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead? No. It is a lot closer to Return of the Living Dead and Sean of the Dead with it’s comedy violence and offbeat 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 succinctly.
The basis of Cockneys vs Zombies is theme of senior citizens fighting the undead and it 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 talent. Alan Ford excels with a new variation of the traditional East End hard man that he has played 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.
Cockneys vs Zombies works 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 post modern pretension. Just honest humour and a lot of zombie based gore. Its far from subtle, but who wants subtlety in a zombie movie?