Director: Matthias Hoene
Cast: Georgia King, Honor Blackman, Michelle Ryan, Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway
Length: 88 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
It’s rather fascinating if you look at how much standard-setting zombie horror has come out of Great Britain in the past decade or so. Whereas 28 Days Later broke ground for “fast zombies” and Shaun of the Dead redefined the mentality of the modern horror comedy, smaller films like Outpost worked wonders within the cult audience. However, as of the last couple of years, there hasn’t been much movement within the world of British zombie films, especially in the wake of the American domination of the subgenre within the world of television and comic books.
However, the 2012 British film Cockneys vs. Zombies aimed to break that trend, offering a funny and over-the-top zombie film that’s played much more for laughs than it’s predecessors. Fans expecting another Shaun may be disappointed, as the characters here aren’t nearly as developed and the humor is much more in-your-face than the former film, but Cockneys is still a good time on its own merits. Subversive, bloody and with a razor sharp wit, it’s no surprise that reputable disc distributor SHOUT! Factory is offering this film on American shores.
Cockneys vs. Zombies has a plot that’s simple in execution yet obtuse in scope, as we follow the remaining members of a troubled family while a zombie epidemic takes over London. The three youngest in the family take part in a bank robbery to save the nursing home that harbors their grandfather, and once the outbreak hits, the narrative splits as we follow the Grandfather and his elderly comrades batten down the hatch as the robbers deal with internal turmoil, skepticism and snarky hostages once the zombies drive them to the streets. The story does have bits and pieces of emotional moments, especially once the family is reunited, but the film itself is more focused on playing as a full-on comedy, letting biting dialogue and madcap physical humor take control of the film’s focus. Often times, the humor is successful, as zombies with metal plates in their head and a hilariously slow chase scene between a zombie and an old man with a walker land in a big way. However, the film also has it’s fair share of misses and despite its inherent charm, some misguided steps as the result of its budget are quite noticeable.
Technically speaking, Cockneys vs. Zombies is fairly standard and at times, impressive. Director Matthius Hoene does a straight-forward job of shuffling the narrative forward while hitting the comedic moments whenever he can, and he never allows the film to become repetitive, which is unfortunately impressive in the era of modern zombie films. Director of Photography Daniel Bronks uses a sharp, digital picture for the proceedings, which gives the film a flossy yet unremarkable visual tone, although the scenes of blood and gore do look astounding, courtesy of Paul Hyett. The script by James Moran and Lucas Roche is strong if uneven, and frequently funny, although the heavy accents and frequent slang may have US viewers reaching for the subtitles, which isn’t a detriment to the film in any way. And the original music from Jody Jenkins compliments many of the humorous moments, giving the film the aura of ironic seriousness needed for bigger laughs to work.
The cast of Cockneys vs. Zombies ranges from subtle to mugging, but all fill their roles admirably. Obviously, the star player amongst the bunch is Alan Ford, stealing the show as the curmudgeon grandfather of the piece with a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality and is given a great, earnest rapport with Goldfinger alum Honor Blackman. Amongst the other cast, Michelle Ryan and Georgia King offer a change of pace to the typical zombie survivor, adding a level of annoyed frustration and proactive desperation to their performance. Rasmus Hardicker and Harry Treadaway are also enjoyable in their roles as two of the younger brothers in the family, trading barbs as zombies inch their way towards them, and Ashley Thomas provides the film’s scenery-chewing attitude-appropriate psychopath role with respectable bravado.
Shot digitally, Cockneys vs. Zombies has a shiny, defined picture and SHOUT!’s 1080p transfer gives the pre-saturated photography more emphasis on color and shadowing. Barely any grain to be seen in the film and the hue and warmth of the picture appear to be free of Digital Noise Reduction.
Once again, SHOUT! knocks it out of the park with the audio transfer, as every audible piece of the film is clear, separate and free of hiss and scratch. The track never appears to be out of sync and the levels of audio are relatively on-par throughout the film.
SHOUT! assembles some great extras for this package, if uneven. Two Commentary Tracks are there for repeat views, one rather straightforward and technically informative addition from director Hoene and the other an often funny and more energetic track from writer James Moran. The Original Behind the Scenes Featurette is disappointing, offering stringed-together bits and pieces of the shooting through an unimpressive and seemingly unprepared video. The film also comes with watchable yet unnecessary Deleted Scenes and the film’s Theatrical Trailer.
Cockneys vs. Zombies may not be the seminal zombie comedy to take the crown from Shaun of the Dead, but it doesn’t necessarily try to, instead existing as a goofier and more traditionally frenetic excursion into the genre. Memorable performances and special effects will stand out to genre fans as the film’s sporadically genius moments of amusement will impress the comedy crowd. Overall, Cockneys vs. Zombies is a worthy horror comedy if you’re willing to leave your brain at the door and let the good times roll.
~ By Ken Hanley