COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES (2012)
Cockneys: Their accent is up there with Beatles Liverpudlian and Generic Aristocrat as a regional English accent well-known outside of Britain, mostly thanks to Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS, Ray Winstone and Guy Ritchie’s non-Madonna movies. The word Cockney itself goes back over 600 years to “cockerel’s egg”, a derogatory reference used by country folk for their more effeminate town-dwelling fellows in places like London. The area most associated with Cockneys are the working class parts of East London near the docks, including Whitechapel, site of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. Famous Cockneys include Steven Berkoff, Michael Caine, Charlie Chaplin and Sid Vicious.
One feature of the Cockneys, apart from all being lovable geezers, ya know, crooks with a heart of gold, is their rhyming slang, a cryptolect spawned in the 19th Century among traders and criminals to be able to talk amongst themselves in order to facilitate collusion without customers and police knowing what they were saying (e.g. “brown bread”=”dead”, “Mutt and Jeff”=”deaf”, “pork pies”=”Lies”). Many of the rhyming slangs passed into general usage with their origins forgotten, even travelling to places like America (“bread”, meaning “money”, comes from “bread and honey”), and which might surprise those folk who might call someone a “berk” without knowing that it was short for “Berkshire Hunt”, which rhymes with a word I won’t use in case my mother reads this – hi Mom!)
The above information dump is a primer to help those not in the know while watching COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, because I seriously want as many people as possible watching this, awright, me old muckers?
We open on a construction site in East London, where two workers discover an underground chamber with a doorway covered by a stone slab inscribed with, “Sealed by Order of King Charles II – 1666”. They break it open and enter, expecting to find treasures, only to find a mass burial crypt with hundreds of skeletons. After some sacrilegious banter (didn’t you boys learn anything from horror movies?), they are attacked by some still-intact corpses, one man getting his mouth and cheek off in glorious grisly Technicolor.
Ever watch the start of a movie and something happens which makes you think, “This is gonna be something kick-ass”? That’s what I felt just then.
After a very watchable comic-book style opening credits and the song “Monster” by The Automatics, we open on the Maguire Brothers, Andy (Harry Treadaway, FISH TANK) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker, I WANT CANDY) readying a stolen van for a criminal job later. Andy is the older of the two but the more short-tempered one, getting his more cowardly but cannier brother into trouble, but though they might be planning to commit a crime, they’re not all bad, as we see when they deliver meals to the retirement home of their grandfather Ray (Alan Ford, SNATCH, LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) and his fellow pensioners, including sweet Peggy (Honor Blackman, GOLDFINGER), and doddery Hamish (Richard Briers, THE GOOD LIFE, KENNETH BRANAGH’S FRANKENSTEIN). War veteran Ray is a tough old bird, probably tougher than his two grandsons combined, and he won’t take shit from either the local youths or the surveyors planning to demolish the rest home and scatter the pensioners to homes throughout Britain.
It’s because of this imminent closure that the Maguire boys are planning to rob a bank and keep the elderly friends together, with the help of their more competent cousin Katie (Michelle Ryan, EASTENDERS, BIONIC WOMAN), the well-meaning but incompetent Davey Tuppence (Jack Doolan, CEMENTARY JUNCTION) and gunman Mental Mickey (Ashley “Bashy” Thomas, 4,3,2,1), an Iraqi war vet with a steel plate in his head and more issues than MAD magazine. But while the gang assembles and enters the targeted bank, the old folk back at the home spot a number of shambling figures coming over from the nearby construction site (remember that?).
A bank employee hits the panic button, the police arrive, Mickey goes Mr Blonde on them, there’s a siege, hostages are taken, but when the gang emerge again, they find the cops outside dead, and the undead swarming around. The gang escapes back to their warehouse hideout, learning that the entire East End has been closed off and the population mostly evacuated.
Hostage bank employee Clive (Tony Garner) proves disruptive, even at the risk of his own life, but fellow hostage, customer Emma (Georgia King, THE NEW NORMAL) proves more helpful, identifying the undead and how to properly kill them, though not before Mickey gets himself bit on the arm (and we all know how that will turn out, right?). Andy, Terry and Katie just want to find their grandfather, who has assembled the surviving pensioners in their nursing home and
This is definitely going up on my Best of 2012. Definitely. There will be obvious comparisons with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but while there are a few nods to the genre, COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES, written by James Moran (TORCHWOOD, SEVERANCE), prefers to make a straightforward horror-comedy movie with elements of the heist genre, and it succeeds on all fronts. The origin of the zombies (referencing a real-life plague which devastated London in 1665-6) is a fresh change from the now-overworn genetically-engineered backstory) is refreshing, the reason for our heroes having guns in relatively gun-free London makes sense, and though the zombies seem to overtake East London fairly quickly, they are at least proper shambling zombies instead of sprinters.
As I wrote, the movie touches on not only the tropes of the zombie film (a highlight is the slowest chase scene ever between an elderly man on a frame and an equally-slow zombie) but Cockneys and the British as well (one of Ray’s elderly friends gets his rhyming slang hopelessly over-complicated, and there’s a scene between former rival football fans who just can’t stop fighting each other). The film also benefits from having a decent-sized budget to pull off that apocalyptic look, and director Matthias Hoene knows how to get the most of both his cast and the settings. The gore is plentiful, though there are one or two scenes that ended up shot solely from the POV of the heroes shooting or stabbing zombies without our seeing the gory effects. I also didn’t like losing one of the better characters before the halfway mark of the movie.
But these are minor quibbles. COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES is a fast, fun, gory ride, filled with swearing pensioners and gut munching revenants. It’s available on DVD in the UK and at selected film festivals in Britain, the US, and elsewhere. Check out the trailer below, you fahking muppets!
Director: Matthias Hoene
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien