SEPTEMBER 23, 2012
I couldn't make any of the screenings of Cockneys vs. Zombies at Fantastic Fest (it's actually playing "tonight" at midnight, but alas there's no way I'm missing the haunted house!), so like Dead Sushi, once again I find myself watching a screener by myself for a film designed to be enjoyed with a big crowd on a big screen. Then again, the film's excess of digital blood might be even MORE of a bother on a bigger screen with superior resolution, so maybe this was for the best. Still - hopefully next year their schedule won't be so much at odds with my own.
Anyway, I enjoyed the flick quite a bit. It's so short (82 minutes or so) that there simply isn't TIME to get too dull or repetitive, and I found myself charmed by the characters even though they were criminals. Our hero group is in the process of robbing a bank when the zombie invasion begins, and while that usually turns me off, director Matthias Hoene and screenwriter James Moran (who co-wrote Severance, which is what drew me to this) do a fine job of making most of these guys kind of lovable, mostly via quick flashbacks that showed them displaying their criminal skills, or lack thereof (love the guy who gets caught trying to rob a convenience store because he starts hitting on the clerk). Plus, they're not just out to fund their lifestyles, nor are they professional criminals - there's a legitimately sweet reason for their robbery that I found endearing.
It also provides a nice B-story: the residents of a nursing home (the main robbers' granddad lives there) also fending off the undead in their own way. Led by the great Alan Ford (who is backed up by the always awesome Honor Blackman), this scenario could almost be its own movie, as they have different weaponry at their disposal, some cheap but funny gags about senility and the like, and a scene 506797 zombie movies into the making: a slow zombie "chasing" a guy with a walker. I'm sure the gag has been done elsewhere, but it doesn't make it any less funny to see all these quick cut closeups that make it look like an exciting chase, only for a wide shot to reveal how slow and unscary it is. It's a terrific gag. I also loved the old guy who though they were up against vampires, and thus advised that they needed "garlic, sunlight, holy water, and Christopher Lee."
And that leads me to the other thing I loved - they knew how to dispatch zombies! During the first big shootout the female lead (Michelle Ryan), she explains to shoot them in the head, because "everyone knows that!" FINALLY, someone who agrees with me that there have been enough zombie movies by now for their weaknesses to be a given, just like vampires with sunlight. And having the spunky, attractive heroine be the one to explain it to the slower males in her group was just a bonus - I wanted to marry her on the spot.
The humor was also pretty spot on, opting for the same low-key, dry humor that served Shaun of the Dead and Doghouse so well (what the hell is it with London and zombies? I feel I've seen that city overrun more than Pittsburgh at this point). And a lot of it was character driven, like a guy pointing out to his brother that they definitely had a radio because he heard him listening to Dido on it earlier. Then there's a guy with a metal plate in his head, which of course leads to a scene where he becomes a zombie and they can't kill him because the metal blocks their bullets. That's a pretty typical indication of the movie's overall feel - it's just fast-paced, good-natured fun, with a lot of payoffs for things set up in the first reel (not unlike Shaun, albeit not as dense or clever).
It's also got a great soundtrack. Things kick off with the awesome "Monster" from The Automatic (which accompanies a terrific title sequence), and both the instrumental score from Jody Jenkins and other song selections are just as enjoyable, giving the film a boost of energy to make up for the fact that this IS the billionth zom-com. It certainly has enough of its own personality and a roster of enjoyable characters, but you won't be able to avoid feeling some deja vu if you've kept up with the genre in the past 5-6 years. And the action itself isn't all that impressive; there are a few good gags here and there (including a nice triple impaling where the 3rd seemed to be a happy accident), but most of it is fairly forgettable, set in equally unimpressive locales (a warehouse, a dock, etc).
But the charming heroes (Harry Treadaway is going to be a big star, I think) and endearing relationship between them and their grandfather won me over, and like Dead Sushi, it just hit the spot for me. I know some pals weren't fans (at least one flat out HATED it), but I couldn't find anything to get worked up about; as long as you know it's not going to revolutionize the British zom-com genre, I think it'll do ya just fine.
What say you?