Cockneys VS Zombies Blu-ray Review
Directed by Matthias Hoene
Written by James Moran and Lucas Roche
2012, Region A, 88 minutes, Not rated
Blu-ray released on September 3rd, 2013
Rasmus Hardiker as Terry
Harry Treadway as Andy
Michelle Ryan as Katy
Alan Ford as Ray
Honor Blackman as Peggy
Georgia King as Emma
Dudley Sutton as Eric
Richard Briers as Hamish
Georgina Hale as Doreen
The residents of a retirement community are facing relocation when the facility is scheduled for demolition to make way for a new housing development. Desperate to keep their grandfather in a familiar environment, brothers Terry and Andy concoct a plan to rob a bank for the funds necessary to keep things regular. Joined by their cousin Katy and a pair of unfortunate accomplices, the group successfully acquires the needed cash, but is met with a zombie outbreak before they can flee. They must fight their way across the East End of London to save the elderly who are currently facing the same undead intruders.
This is a high-concept picture that is light on plot but contains more charm than expected. The gimmick of pitting the crotchety (and thickly-accented) pensioners against a marauding wave of the living dead is fairly amusing and ripe with possibilities. There are some humorously drawn parallels between the impaired mobility of the two groups, and the inevitable scenario in which the old folks discover they still have a bit of fight in them is nicely handled. The younger generation is equally likeable and a few running gags keep things light as their tribe navigates from one obstacle to the next.
Zombie movies are frequently held up against the works of George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), who re-invented the genre 45 years ago. Cockneys VS Zombies works hard to be its own film despite the additional burden of standing in the long shadow of a film like Shaun of the Dead. Screenwriter James Moran (Tower Block) fills this adventure with many colorful characters and takes the time to develop each before unleashing the madcap shenanigans. There are a few missed opportunities for social commentary one may expect thanks to Romero, but this doesn't appear to be Moran's goal.
The cast is quite strong, particularly Alan Ford (The Long Good Friday) as Ray, the feisty grandfather, and Honor Blackman (Goldfinger) as his love interest Peggy. The two share a nice chemistry and both appear to enjoy the silliness of the material. The supporting members of the aging community are not given as much to do, but include such legendary performers as Dudley Sutton (The Island), Richard Briers (Henry V) and Georgina Hale (The Devils). Rasmus Hardiker (Your Highness) and Harry Treadway (Control) both show a nice sense of comic timing as the inept brothers Terry and Andy respectively. Michelle Ryan (Eastenders) holds her own as Cousin Katy, despite the majority of the fun being given to the boys.
Director Matthias Hoene (Beyond the Rave) keeps things moving more often than not and is most successful at distinguishing the individual members of the overpopulated cast. Where the film suffers most is the balancing act between the storylines of the young and old. The action of a bank heist and ensuing bedlam is frequently interrupted by a variety of sing-a-long numbers at the retirement community or static shots of the elderly trying to decide what to do. While I appreciate the necessity to keep both plots alive and relevant, the pacing is severely hampered by the uneven stakes between locations. All is forgiven once the two stories converge, but it is a chore in the early stages of the action.
Hoene has surrounded himself with a strong crew, including cinematographer Daniel Bronks, whose desaturated color palette saves the vibrancy for the generous bloodshed. There is some impressive camerawork that helps keep things lively and Bronks makes nice use of the widescreen frame. Paul Hyett's makeup effects are also impressive and the walking dead are effectively creepy without becoming cartoonish caricatures. Jody Jenkin's music cues are a lot of fun and provide some additional levity to the action. All of these elements work together to create a fine addition to the legion of zombie tales that have recently crowded the market in the wake of The Walking Dead. This one may play better with alcohol and friends on a Friday night, but the same can be said for many fine monster movies.
Video and Audio:
Cockneys VS Zombies is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks quite nice with razor-sharp detail on assorted small objects and textures. The general color scheme is a bit flat by design, but when the blood flows it is in sharp contrast to what came before. Non-zombie flesh tones appear natural and black levels are solid.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is plenty with particular attention provided to the rear channels. The mix favors both the quiet, lurking zombie growls and the frequent gunfights with active directional effects and impressive low end rumble. English subtitles are provided.
There are several fine supplements to choose from, starting with a pair of commentary tracks that are each informative and witty. Director Hoene offers a slightly dry track filled with anecdotes that are more technical in nature, while James Moran's recording is more focused on the aspects of his screenplay. Neither participant takes himself or the work too seriously, but the discussions would have been stronger as a shared conversation between the two.
Next up are a collection of deleted scenes (7 minutes) that offers minor bits of character development that are not entirely missed, although the last scene would have played well in the finished film. The material can be played individually or as a whole and is presented with an optional pair of commentaries.
An assortment of behind-the-scenes promotional vignettes (29 minutes) covers the daily production and includes both a video journal and a zombie training video. The shorts can be played separately or all together.
Rounding things out is the original trailer for the film.