Director: Matthias Hoene. Teashop and Film Company et al (15)
Producers: James Harris, Matthias Hoene, Mark Lane.
Writers: James Moran, Lucas Roache.
Camera: Daniel Bronks.
Music: Jody Jenkins.
Sets: Matthew Button.
Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Ryan, Jack Doolan, Georgia King, Ashley Thomas, Tony Gardner, Alan Ford, Honor Blackman, Georgina Hale, Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton.
When workmen in the East End of London stumble across a crypt, sealed hundreds of years ago, they disturb a zombie hidden amongst the skeletons, unleashing an ancient plague across the capital. The only line of defence is a group of plucky pensioners in a nearby old peoples home, aided by a gang of teenagers.
The modern movie zombie is descended from comparatively humble stock. The undead who shuffled across the screen so slowly but so memorably in George A. Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968) would probably not recognise their celluloid progeny, swift, almost athletic grandchildren, in 28 Days Later, the soon to be released Brad Pitt epic World War Z and the intelligent, organised mass of Romero’s own Land of the Dead.
In one respect then Cockneys vs Zombies is a very traditional hark back to the good old days when zombies were little more than bullet fodder and humans could take the upper hand in a gory battle. The story itself hinges on tradition and the encroaching modernity around it, how suspicious and mistrustful everyone is of it in this film. The OAPs’ home is facing demolition to make way for a swanky new development. Indeed, it is the construction work for this that unleashes the zombies; the undead are clearly the embodiment of this evil need to constantly update. Ford, who revels in playing the swaggering, foul-mouthed cockney hero of yesteryear, repeatedly asserts his need to reclaim ‘his’ East End, in other words to return the traditional to its former glory. An old style double decker bus is the chosen escape vehicle; the heroes are later forced off when Hardiker thrashes the hell out of its crusty engine.
The bus also smartly links us back to 21st century London – the film was released during the 2012 Olympic Games, so it takes the heroes and audience on a quick tour of the instantly recognisable and new East End (Canary Wharf puts in a brief cameo).
This also helps to give the film good topicality as older sections of London are rapidly gobbled up by the whims of gentrification, the zombie horror as ever providing a neat social commentary amidst the red mayhem.
Of the gore, it is fantastically handled, with heads exploding, heads sliced off with samurai swords, artificial legs used as clubs and babies merrily drop kicked across waste land.
The film’s winning streak is balancing these commendably gruesome scenes of shootings, decapitations and dismemberment with a twinkling East End wit. It’s a very profane wit, the word “fuck” peppering almost every line so at one point you think might be listening to the dialogue from a Zombie-Goodfellas mash-up. But it also sounds authentic, a typically piss-taking London talk. Even the normally velvet and distinctly upper class sounding Blackman gets in on the act; it’s not often one hears Pussy Galore say “Don’t tawk bollox Ray!” with all the conviction of a Bow belle charlady. It’s almost astonishing then to hear her later tell Ford: “I’d shoot you stone fackin’ dead!”
You’ll also remember Briers on a Zimmer frame machine gunning his former nurse and surmising the carnage with “That was a bit sad that”; the writers also pin down the doddery vagueness that some old ones display perfectly too. The laughs even extend to the closing title credits; the extras who play the zombies are listed according to how they are dispatched. One is simply called ‘Some Poor Bastard’.
‘ave some of this? I should think so!