Before screening his film, Matthias Hoene let the packed midnight crowd in on a secret. If a place on Earth exists that casts zombies as the underdog, it would be the rough and tumble streets of East London. Hoene's entry into the zombie comedy cannon pits a gang of would be criminals with hearts of gold against a horde of brain munchers unleashed when corporate greed finds a neighborhood getting bowled over to make way for luxury condos.
Terry and Harry (Ramus Hardiker and Harry Treadaway respectively) have put together a small band of crooks whose competency level ranges from abysmal to a one man army (complete with an arsenal hat would make your typical militia outfit drool with lust). The brothers are low end crooks from a long line of low end crooks (one of the funnier bits flashes back to the boys' childhoods. After the parents deliver an inspirational “you can do anything you set your mind to do speech” to their offspring, mum and dad take up arms and rush out the door only to be be cut down under a hailstorm of police fire). While under normal circumstances it might be difficult to root on a gang of crooks with no qualms about taking hostages, the brothers have noble intentions. They need the money to save their grandfather Ray's (Alan Ford) nursing home from demolition. Since the old man raised the pair, they feel it's the least they can do for the man. While the end still doesn't justify the means, Hoene points out that the folks the boys are robbing fun are up to white collar crime on their own with a plan to rob two million pounds from the construction crew's payroll and pension funds.
Really though neither the robbery nor the white collar crime are of any real importance. It's all just a way to get the ball rolling and the gang together. One minute the crew gather their courage before engaging the bobbies in a shootout only to kick open the bank doors and find the streets in chaos and the cops getting torn apart by the undead. In one of the nicer touches, the gang immediately know what's gone down. “Zombies” according to their cousin Emma (Georgia King). She also tells everyone to shoot them in the head, since everyone knows that's how you kill a zombie. It's good to see a film that acknowledges horror movies exist without being steeped in ironic detachment.
What matters is Terry and Harry rescuing their grandfather and his mates and getting out of Dodge. The retirees show a surprising aptitude at holding off the undead attack, though they seem to get their movie monsters confused. The best line of the film comes from one of them claiming their under vampire attack and need "garlic, sunlight, holy water and Christopher Lee"* in order to survive. Zombies attacking the old folks home make for some great visual gags, including a footrace between an old man with a walker and a pursuing horde. When Hoene pulls the camera in close, the music builds, giving one the impression of an epic chase sequence. Of course when we cut to a long shot it reveals just how non threatening the sequence is. It's not the most original bit of humor but it works.
That last sentence sums up the film as a whole. Cockneys vs. Zombies isn't going to set the world on fire with originality but it gets more right than wrong, including occasional segues into nonsensical Family Guy type humor. The biggest drawback is an over reliance on digital blood, which looks distracting on the big screen. This is the second consecutive British horror film reviewed (Inbred being the other) marred by digital FX. Do squib packs cost an exorbitant amount in Britain? That aside, Cockneys vs. Zombies is a good time passer with gags that work and a level of onscreen violence that approaches a hyperactive video game. Seek this one out.
*Technically speaking wouldn't they be better off asking for Peter Cushing, who played Van Helsing to Lee's Dracula in the Hammer productions?