Since Shaun of the Dead, for some reason I get extremely giddy whenever I hear the UK has produced another lovable zombie flick. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg won me over in a matter of seconds with their witty British sensibilities and copious amounts of zombie munching gore, and I guess I’m looking for that next big score to follow suit.
Cockneys vs Zombies unfortunately isn’t that next game changer, but it isn’t a pass over by any means either. In fact, I would say Matthias Hoene is nipping at the heels of Edgar Wright, but ends up making a film just one small tier below. I went in looking for some unique zombie fun, and that’s exactly what I got. Nothing really furthered the genre or made it special, but I still had a blast watching our East End friends fight their way through hordes of shambling zombies. Plus, some fantastic strategical horror knowledge is used to keep better characters alive, something other horror films completely ignore.
The biggest disappointment for me is the fact that Matthias Hoene is so close to achieving cult greatness, but James Moran and Lucas Roche’s screenplay unfolds just a little off course to bring in greatness. But again, it isn’t bad or easily dismissed, and the duo display such honest and straight shooting delivery which I personally love. Don’t you hate those dumb conversations in lesser zombie films where the characters first deal with an onslaught of walkers and they have no idea what’s going on? “What are these things!” they scream, “Can this really be happening!” they ask, as if zombies had never been introduced to pop culture. No, your neighbor is just feeling a bit under the weather, that’s why he’s dismembering the sweet old lady down the street and ripping her intestines out for a quick snack.
Breathe easy, as none of these moments exist in Cockneys vs Zombies, answering those questions right off the bat with a definitive “Yup, those are zombies,” giving details like “You have to shoot them in the head” with an emphatic “Everyone knows that.” The writing doesn’t waste much time or insult horror fans, but then again some moments are lacking hearty substance. Momentarily the dialogue and humor thinks itself cheekier than delivered, and doesn’t hold up against better genre films which slay horror/comedy fans. But momentarily is still much better than completely, and the script certainly finishes with a head exploding bang!
Which leads me to the positives, filled with a rookie bank robbing attempt, funny characters, and a geriatric zombie killing squad.
Alan Ford (Snatch/Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) plays a leader-type resident at an old folks home, Ray, which is under attack by a wave of zombies, so he gathers up what residents he can and holes up inside. Most of the seniors can be recognized from famous material, for instance Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), and are a riot to see deal with the apocalypse. From confusing zombies with vampires, rolling around in wheelchairs, having multiple surgeries done limiting activity, and some moving as slow as the zombies themselves – so much of the entertainment comes from our grey haired survivors.
Ray’s grandsons Andy (Harry Treadaway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker), along with their cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan), supply likable leads as well, playing bumbling criminals who want to rob a bank in order to save Ray’s nursing home from being demolished by luxury homing. They’re the typical type of nitwit, unprofessional criminals you get from being first timers, mixing in an equally inept Davey (Jack Doolan), a bubbly hostage named Emma (Georgia King), and resident gun-nut “Mental Mickey” (Ashley Bashy Thomas). It’s a solid mix of conflicting personalities and different mindsets which clash in entertaining fashion, and it’s nice to see Rasmus Hardiker again after being the only redeeming factor of Your Highness, while Harry Treadaway proves to be just as entertaining as his brother Luke Treadaway as the lovable stoner Brewis in Attack The Block.
But most of all, as I said, the entertainment factor amongst Cockneys vs Zombies is off the charts, along with a final stand which puts a bloody bow on top of Hoene’s film. The whole film is based around Andy and Terry’s group meeting up with their grandfather Ray at the nursing home, and when they do, they arm each one of Ray’s friend with an insane firearm of their own for a final great escape. Little old ladies turning into Rambo with Uzis? Yeah, it’s way more rewarding seeing old timers go to town on hordes of zombies than your typical commando type executing walkers with a precise knife to the head.
It’s a gory, bloody, zombie shooting gallery type ending, all carried out by people the age of your Grandmum, with the help of the few spry characters from the robbery who are still alive. It’s all fun, games, and jokes up until that point, with some great horror/comedy elements to lighten up some brutal deaths, but the brilliantly scripted and explosively enjoyable ending makes Cockneys vs Zombies worth so much more.
I can't exactly call Cockneys vs Zombies an instant cult classic, but I'll absolutely call it a cult hit without hesitation.