Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Cinema File #26: "Cockneys Vs. Zombies" Review


After FDR Vs. Werewolves, I think this is just about right.

The Zombie genre has had its ups and downs of late, reaching a new height of interest in recent years, only to suffer a well-deserved backlash due to over exposure. With the exception of The Walking Dead which has seemed to regain its footing after a rocky second season, pretty much anything you see with zombies nowadays just feels like more of the same. It doesn't help that every schlocky film crew in the world has a new gimmick they want to throw out to try to make these classic movie monsters relevant. Hell, we even did it on the second episode of our podcast. Despite the over-saturation and well past hip sell by date, I'm still pulling for a zombie movie that thrills me again. To be honest, part of that is self-serving, as I recently co-wrote a zombie related television pilot I'm trying to get produced, so anything that keeps the undead trend alive a little longer is something I can appreciate. Cockneys Vs. Zombies is no revelation when it comes to zombie movies. It doesn't re-invent the zombie wheel or bring all that much new to a genre that sorely needs it. That being said, I enjoyed myself quite a bit, and came away from it feeling like the effort was well worth my time.

The story follows two groups struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the East End of London, a team of sympathetic would-be bank robbers at one end of town, and the delightfully crotchety old timers of an old folks home at the other. The plague is unleashed when an ancient crypt sealed away by King Charles II is opened in the present day by some construction workers, and as is typical, it spreads within hours, descending the city into chaos. The plot beats are all fairly predictable once the main characters realize their predicament, being forced to find shelter and ammo and eventually coming together and searching for an escape route. As I said, its nothing new, but at the same time, it does it right, and keeps things moving at a pace where I never got bored even if I've seen this same story played out a million times before.



The characters are all fun to watch from the get-go. The two scrappy brothers who plan the heist are instantly charming and their locksmith cousin adorable without becoming annoyingly snarky (a risk considering the only other thing I've ever seen her in was the Doctor Who special Planet of the Dead, where she made for a somewhat aggravating companion). Rounding out the robbers is an inept "criminal expert" who can't help hitting on his hostages, and a gun crazy Iraq War vet who fills our bitten, soon to be zombified asshole quota. On the other side, the elderly codgers are led by Alan Ford as a rough and tumble bastard and, strangely enough, Pussy Galore herself Honor Blackman. Not since Bubba Ho-Tep have I been able to indulge this much in my love of dark old people humor. Many of their scenes reminded me of the comedic Jim Brodbent vignette in Cloud Atlas, just without all the pretentious nonsense that brought that film down. And, you know, zombies all over the place.

The obvious comparison I imagine most people will make with this film is Shaun of the Dead, and while I'd say its setting and premise almost invite it, it would be unfair to criticize Cockneys Vs. Zombies for failing to living up to the Edgar Wright standard. While funny, it certainly never reaches the level of that film, which I consider a classic of the genre, but I also appreciate that unlike Shaun of the Dead, Cockneys doesn't try to wink at the camera or provide any meta analysis of zombie movies. It eschews the sort of Cabin in the Woods-esque genre tweaking that has become almost a given in movies like this, and instead just tries to hit all the right notes and make what is essentially a good old fashioned, no frills zombie action comedy.

And there are a few interesting twists thrown in here and there to make the whole affair just unique enough without straying too far from its roots. The whole concept of zombies attacking an old folks home, an idea well encapsulated through a hilarious chase scene involving a traditionally slow zombie and an old man with a walker, pans out very well and places the zombie menace at a level where they are actually threatening in a way they haven't been for quite some time. And there are a lot of little touches that I appreciated, like the notion of killing the zombie of a man with a metal plate in his head, which was so telegraphed that I should have seen it coming, but completely missed it because the rest of the film was so unassuming. Also, the Brit-centric humor throughout just made me smile in spite of myself. Beyond the accents and the brash blue collar personalities, you have a climactic chase in a hijacked double decker bus, two warring hordes of zombie soccer hooligans whose team spirit survives death, and even a Mr. Bean reference! Plus, in typically good natured British fashion, it probably has the most upbeat ending to any half-way serious zombie movie I've ever seen.

Unless you're just absolutely sick of zombies in all their forms, and really, even if you are, I'd say definitely give Cockney's Vs. Zombies a watch. The name seems tailor made to fool you into thinking this is just another example of straight to DVD trash, but trust me, there's enough to satisfy even the most jaded of zombie fans, myself included. Its not going to revitalize the genre or go down in history as anything, but its a fun watch nonetheless, and I easily recommend it.

Now, my zombie pilot on the other hand, that shit's gonna change the world.
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