Review: Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

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Cast: Harry Treadaway, Rasmus Hardiker, Alan Ford
Director: Matthias Hoene
Country: UK
Genre: Comedy | Horror
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Cockneys vs Zombies opens in limited release and on VOD this Friday, August 2nd

Concepts don’t come much higher than that of Cockneys vs Zombies, a movie with the good grace to supply its plot and title both in three sweet little words. Cos really, who needs anything more? Matthias Hoene has concocted an idea with huge potential for genre-hopping fun and handed it to his scribes, who have returned to him a deliriously silly and determinedly out-there feast of English exploitation, which he brings to the screen with no shortage of audacious aggression. Comedy though this may be, its decadent tides of bloodshed betray a director far more interested in having his audience wince at the sight of exploding heads than laugh at the ludicrousness of… well, of cockneys versus zombies.

Matthias Hoene has concocted an idea with huge potential for genre-hopping fun and handed it to his scribes, who have returned to him a deliriously silly and determinedly out-there feast of English exploitation, which he brings to the screen with no shortage of audacious aggression.

cockneys_vs_zombies_2012_3The absurd appeal of this year’s The Sweeney was in seeing police officers taking baseball bats to bad guys while calling them villains and slags. The fun was to be found in the delirious impropriety, Nick Love’s shamelessly stupid modern treatment of an outmoded TV series allowing it to assume a riotous campy fun rooted in sheer disbelief. Cockneys vs Zombies goes one step further: an early gag, which it would be criminal to spoil, is gleefully risqué, and the point at which each viewer will undoubtedly know whether or not they’re ready to come along for the ride. Those who aren’t are missing out: this is a silly blast of a movie, stuffed with glorious gore and padded with witty dialogue, ably delivered by a cast of young and old equally willing to throw themselves out there for the sake of a good gag.

The influence of Edgar Wright is prominent, not just in the absurdist juxtaposition of social realism—the potential closure of a retirement home begins the film—and exploitative horror, but also in the editing style, which more than once inherits the snappy energy which characterises Wright’s cutting. Equally indebted is the soundtrack, which offers—as welcome relief from a slightly grating score—some endlessly entertaining cues that nod toward Shaun of the Dead’s immortal use of  “Don’t Stop Me Now”. The mark Wright and co. have left on British genre cinema is considerable: it’s nice to see that influence paid off here; Hoene may not quite match the pulpy fun of his predecessors—it would be truly impressive if he did—but his efforts yield a terrific streak of giddy fun.

Still, it’s a film that gets its characters and their place in the world, like Bubba Ho-Tep transposed to London’s East End: the Southern Gothic flavour which played so crucial a part to that film’s tone is equalled in the hard-knock sensibility of Hoene’s creations, most particularly the older generation.

cockneys_vs_zombies_2012_4Amidst a slight tendency to oversell the best gags, Cockneys vs Zombies greatest failing is its minor mishandling of the rhyming slang so huge a part of the former culture. Few of the efforts it makes at poking fun at this near-incomprehensible system of speech land well, a disappointment given how fondly it looks on the culture as a whole. Still, it’s a film that gets its characters and their place in the world, like Bubba Ho-Tep transposed to London’s East End: the Southern Gothic flavour which played so crucial a part to that film’s tone is equalled in the hard-knock sensibility of Hoene’s creations, most particularly the older generation. They may be immersed in a last-ditch defence against hordes of undead, but their steely resilience is a very real appreciation of the hardiness of this culture’s forebears.

Echoing the small-scale epicness of 28 Days Later and feeling every bit as tied to its locale as Juan of the Dead, Cockneys vs Zombies is a welcome addition to a genre that never seems short for an inventive new idea. Hoene’s movie has its drawbacks, some more conspicuous than others, but his ample supply of exploding heads and disconnected limbs makes for an instantly convincing apology for that. Hurtling along with all the energy and eagerness of a man aware of a winning formula on his hands, he gives us here a breathlessly entertaining romp, a knowingly schlocky show every bit as funny as it is foolish.

[notification type=”star”]67/100 ~ OKAY. Echoing the small-scale epicness of 28 Days Later and feeling every bit as tied to its locale as Juan of the Dead, Cockneys vs Zombies is a welcome addition to a genre that never seems short for an inventive new idea.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.