It’s virtually impossible to make a modern horror-comedy about zombies without drawing comparisons to Shaun of the Dead, particularly when the film in question is British. Most of these movies shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Shaun, as its near-perfect balance between horror and comedy is difficult to achieve, but Cockneys vs Zombies is worthy of the comparison. It’s intelligent, funny and action-packed.
When Terry (Rasmus Hardiker, Your Highness) and Andy McGuire (Harry Treadaway) find themselves in dire need of money, the inept brothers hatch a plan to rob a bank. They enlist the assistance of their cousin, Katy (Michelle Ryan), a locksmith; Davey (Jack Doolan), their bumbling friend; and Mental Mickey (Ashley Thomas), who has anger management issues, to say the least, but also has access to guns.
The robbery goes surprisingly smoothly at first, but they soon find East London overrun by zombies. The ragtag group of misfits take a pair of hostages, Emma (Georgia King, The New Normal) and Clive (Tony Gardner), steal a double-decker bus and attempt to rescue the brothers’ grandfather (Alan Ford, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), who’s fighting his own battle at the local nursing home.
The first act of the film, which is entertaining in itself, is reminiscent of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (which is fitting, considering Ford narrates that film). The focus shifts once the zombie outbreak occurs, but the humorous tone – one that is wry and decidedly British – remains the same. One particularly funny scene involves an old man with a walker being chased by a slow-moving zombie while a stereotypical, big action score plays.
The unique amalgamation of comedy, crime, action and horror was conceived by director Matthias Hoene. James Moran, who previously proved his ability to mix horror and comedy with Severance, penned the sharp script with Lucas Roche. The film’s practical effects are good when they’re utilized, but a plethora of fake-looking CGI blood splatter is, unfortunately, also used.
The cast members deliver solid performances all around, effortlessly swapping between humor and drama. Ford stands out with the best of both worlds. Honor Blackman, best known as Pussy Galore from Goldfinger, appears in a fun role as one of the nursing home patrons. Doolan delivers some humorous buffoonery, but, due the group dynamic, he doesn’t receive enough screen time. In fact, the core group may be a bit too big for the film’s good; killing off more characters (or eliminating them altogether) would have allowed for better development of the survivors.
Cockneys vs Zombies is a rare contemporary work put out by Scream Factory, a company better known to genre fans for their unparalleled special edition releases of cult classics. The film was made independently but with a decent budget, so the Blu-ray looks and sounds great. The disc comes with two audio commentaries (one with Hoene and another by Moran), half an hour of behind-the-scenes footage from the set, deleted scenes with optional commentary, the trailer and a digital copy of the movie.
Its title may be uninspired, but the film itself is certainly not. Cockneys vs Zombies makes for a great double feature with Shaun of the Dead. It doesn’t quite have the same emotional impact, nor does it include as many laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining zomedy effort.