Although the title may conjure up images of a crudely-made, unimaginative DTV schlock fest with Danny Dyer’s ubiquitous mug adorning a blood-drenched cover, in reality, Cockneys vs Zombies is actually a well-made (and frequently humorous) horror comedy. While it may not reach the heady heights of something like Shaun of the Dead, it proves there’s plenty of laughs to still be found in this over-saturated sub-genre.
Andy and Terry (likeable performances from Harry Treadaway and Rasmus Hardiker, respectively) are two siblings from the same affable, happy-go-lucky Del Boy-school of dubious business dealings. Their grandpa Ray (permanent mockney gangster fixture Alan Ford) is the proprietor and resident of an old folk’s home which is on the cusp of closure, and the well-meaning, if clueless duo hit upon an idea to rob a bank in order to pay of the debtors.
Their scheme appears to be running (semi) smoothly until police arrive mid-way though, leaving their gang of associates, including feisty cousin Katy (played by Michelle Ryan) in an awkward stand-off situation. Just as things really begin to heat up, a mysterious outbreak takes a grip of the area, turning their fellow Eastenders into flesh-hungry zombies. Escaping from the law (who have literally been left in pieces), the gang head back to save Ray and his group of plucky pensioners from being next on the undead’s menu.
Like director Edgar Wright’s foray into the genre, the makers of Cockneys vs Zombies have opted not to make an all-out spoof with the material, and there are some nicely-judged moments and astute social nods amongst the over-the-top, gore-filled mayhem.
The film also film benefits from having a decent-sized budget to pull off that apocalyptic look, and director Matthias Hoene shows much imagination on the casting front. Using figures from British TV and film of yesteryear to play the residents of the care home is a smart move, and seeing the likes of Dudley Sutton, Honor Blackman and Richard Briers trying to outmanoeuvre the undead horde, whom they are matched with in the speed stakes (particularly during one hilarious scene with a frantic Zimmer frame-straddling Briers) is a fun addition to the film.
No East End cliché is (purposely) left unturned (the end theme is by those cheeky cockney songsters, Chas and Dave) but this setting gives the film much of its character and charm, and watching Ford triumphantly welding his semi-automatic rifles towards the end, delivering an embattled, patriotic call to arms, can’t help but raise a huge grin.
One quibble – the film could have benefitted from losing that horribly overused screen wipe device. It sometimes cheapens the otherwise quality work on display, and threatens to turn it into a small screen, Spaced-type venture, the very thing it otherwise successfully avoids.
While it may be a little rough around the edges, Cockneys vs Zombies is the work of a creative team who clearly have a deep reverence towards the type of material they’re sending up, and its high rewatchability factor means it also has the potential to grow into a future small-screen cult fixture. It certainly deserves that status.