The “ZomCom” has, by now, become a permanent addition to the subgenre of zombie films. ZomComs are not spoofs or parodies – though they may contain scenes which recall earlier purist zombie flicks. Nor are they really like the second wave of zombie films like Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, or Peter Jackson’s one-two punch, Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Those were splatterstick entertainments which were defined by each filmmaker’s one-upmanship of spectacular bad taste, and their content was heavily influenced by Monty Python’s infamous “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days” sketch. Until Python, who knew that massively excessive gore and violence would be funny? The ZomCom takes all those elements as common ground for what is really a situation comedy full of stock comedy characters. These films are more about the deadpan intrusion of horror genre elements into a formalized world of one liners. All that’s missing is a pause for the laugh track, followed by a scream track.
Opening up with a sly scene obviously winking at the Nigel Kneale classic Quartermass and the Pit, two dim construction workers come upon a mysterious and hidden historical gravesite sealed during the Great Plague of 1666. Of course, they inadvertently unleash a zombie apocalypse in the East End. Meanwhile, a pair of loser brothers (Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway) plan a bank robbery in order to help their grandfather (Alan Ford) whose nursing home is being threatened with the wrecking ball. Along with their cousin (Michelle Ryan) and a couple of crazy pals, the two eventually find themselves going from bank robbers to zombie killers as they are forced to fight back against the massive throng of undead. All the while, the group tries to make it back to granddad – to save him and his elderly mates – without realizing that the old folks (including Honor Blackman, aka Pussy Galore) are more than resourceful against the shambling corpses.
Cockneys Vs. Zombies delivers exactly what is expected of a film called Cockneys Vs. Zombies. This is a farce first, horror film last, and contains a handful of scenes and moments which are actually quite memorable and clever. A gag in which Richard Briers is seen trying to outrun a slow shambling zombie with his walker hits the bullseye in terms of humor and suspense. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire script grew from that very idea. The taste level of the film never really gets jet black, and even a joke involving a zombie baby being drop kicked into the air remains more fun than shocking, since it’s clear that the “baby” is a stuffed doll. This isn’t Shaun of the Dead or An American Werewolf in London, but then again few films can be expected to reach that tightrope balance between humor and horror. Director Matthias Hoene (Beyond the Rave) never loses his control over the material. It’s clear that he and the film’s writers, James Moran and Lucas Roche, knew exactly the kind of film they wanted to make.
The disc contains a simple mix of voice and effects. The best thing about it is that care appears to have been taken, to ensure that nothing drowned out the voices. So many films want to amp up their score and sound effects to “11” that you being to need the subtitle function left on in order to make sense of the story.
The image on this Blu-Ray release is nothing to write home about. The film’s lower budget has forced the film to be shot very low contrast and desaturated in post. What you get is flatly lit and shadowless. It’s a perfectly acceptable and realistic look but nothing more or less than your standard BBC drama. Lets be honest, this did not need to look like Lawrence of Arabia in order to work. If anything the Blu-Ray’s level of detail makes the film look video-like at times.
Found here are the usual trailer and behind the scenes featurettes, split into five separate pieces of about five minutes each. Nothing really informative. The “Zombie School” featurette was much more interesting in that it was a tool actually used during the production in order to give extras a quick primer on just how to play the undead. There are three easy to remember rules. 1.) A Loose Jaw. 2.) Unsteady legs and 3.) Limp dangling arms. I am now an expert at this. Cast me in your next production.
While not being something everyone is going to need to own, Cockneys Vs. Zombies is a very enjoyable film. It may become more of a cult in later years if the filmmakers continue to develop and eventually make something truly jaw dropping. Then this film will be great to have on the shelf to show that you knew them when.
~ By Brian Holcomb