October 24, 2012

COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (Review) - Toronto After Dark


*Canadian Premiere*

Director: Matthias Hoene

3.5 / 5 zedheads

I've never been to the east end of London, let alone any part of London or the UK. But after watching the Canadian Premiere of Cockneys vs. Zombies at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I think I have a pretty good idea what to expect of its cockney residents:
  • At some point, someone will call me a "Muppet" or a "Monkey"
  • I won't be able to understand what anyone says when they yell
  • In the case of the zombie apocalypse, I'll be in fairly good hands
What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?
 A zombie infection spreads through the heart of East London after a construction crew unearths a mysterious crypt in director Matthias Hoene's gore-drenched crime-adventure-comedy-horror movie mashup. At the same time that the east enders of London are being turned into flesh-eating ghouls, a group of unaware bank-robbing brothers (Rasmus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway) and their bumbling friends make off with more than they bargained for in an attempt to save their granddad's (Alan Ford) retirement home.

Nothing takes care of a zombie better than a boot to the gob
At Cockneys vs. Zombies, you're going to laugh and you're going to cheer. It's a supremely funny movie with plenty of gags (both comedic and ghastly). For zombie and horror-comedy fans, it's incredibly satisfying to watch in the moment. With a large ensemble cast of talented actors, Cockneys vs. Zombies succeeds for the same reason a film like Ocean's 11 succeeds: variety. The supporting cast of colourful characters on the bank-robbing team such as the clueless Davey Tuppance (Jack Doolan) and psychopathic Mental Mickey (Ashley Bashy Thomas) or the elderly comic relief at the retirement home bring the bulk of the film's funny. Unfortunately, they tend to be the kind of characters that die first. The remaining cast is simply not as funny or interesting at this point (Michelle Ryan is painfully underused) and the premise begins to spin its wheels. Alan Ford appears in his most kick-ass role since Snatch and proves the older generation still knows how to kick zombie ass, but Cockneys vs. Zombies more or less shoots itself in the foot by offing its most endearing characters too early.

Geezers and Guns
 Although the premise of Cockneys vs. Zombies runs out of steam a little more than half-way through, there are plenty of amazing and gratuitous zombie kills. Cockneys vs. Zombies really embraces with gusto the trend toward outlandish violence in modern zombie comedies. If you love truly spectacular zombie kills, there are more than a few in Cockneys vs. Zombies.

Shock and Awe
The only place Cockneys vs. Zombies left me truly cold is in the zombie and gun effects department. Many of the zombies are simply pale-faced with blood smeared around their mouths, not unlike most people (me included) who create their own makeup before a Zombie Walk. I know the filmmakers put out a call for self-dressed zombie extras, and I suspect many of them made it on camera. It's not that they look bad, but they don't look great. Further indicative of the film's independent-sized budget, most if not all the gun effects (muzzle flashes, for example) are digital, and they become very noticeable as the film winds down into its bullet-ridden conclusion.

Keep Calm and Shoot On
With an audience, Cockneys vs. Zombies is a riot! With plenty of laughs, blood, and cockney sass, Cockneys vs. Zombies finds fresh ground in the zombie-comedy genre, but in this reviewer's opinion Cockneys vs. Zombies is likely to play better with a theatre full of zombie fans than alone at home on repeated viewings.