Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So bad, yet so good: Cockneys vs Zombies

The past half decade has seen a number of booms in genre film making. First and most obviously would be the boom in Zombie films that started last decade and seemed to crescendo with AMC's "The Walking Dead"; but this still carries on in the realms of writing, gaming and comic to the time of writing. (Vampires tried to shift the shufflers but it looks like that fad has faded with Twilight) The other boom that is now reaching it's peak is in films "So bad they are good", a trend that was really kicked off by Snakes on a Plane and managed to catapult borderline scam artists The Asylum to international notoriety with their "hits" such as Sharknado. I have to admit to a degree of cynicism with this new trend of manufactured schlock, they are very one note jokes for the most part.
2012's British entry both booms (?) is the quite enjoyable "Cockneys vs Zombies"; and as a film I don't know how much of its schlock is manufactured or borne from a deliberate desire to document the struggles of the East end against the Zombie Apocalypse. It's even harder to tell as it comes from a director (Matthias Horne) who has a very short resume of films to judge from. Is this a cynical cash grab for the Zombie/schlocksploitation market? Or is this a "serious" film with a quirky idea behind it?
Cockneys vs Zombies follows the misadventures of a pair of brothers, Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy(Harry Treadaway) , who decide to rob a bank in order to save their grandfather's (Alan Ford) retirement home. They team up with a pair of hopeless criminals (one just incompetent, the other psychotic) and their way too talented Cousin Katy. (Michelle Ryan. No small celeb crush on her at all here... I even tried to like the Bionic Woman reboot) While the group proceeds to mess up a bank robbery, two workmen accidentally unleash the Romero apocalypse on East London and the dead rise to consume the flesh of the living. So the group is tasked with fighting their way across London to help save their grandfather and other occupants of the retirement home from the growing undead hoard.
The Undead here are pretty much your stock standard Romero type, slow moving, killed by destroying the brain and infectious. The Cockneys are reflections of a Guy Richie film (literally in the case of Alan Ford) and Eastenders (again literally with Michelle Ryan) mashed together and the film does do the genre smash well. The Bankrobbery is a good reason why people in London would have the firepower needed to do traditional Zombie blasting, and the mcguffin of the characters having to deal with an illegal arms trader to get them is quite logically followed through. Despite the films zany meta-premise it generally plays it straight, a few of the characters and situations are amusing but that simply pushes it into dark comedy as opposed to ridiculousness. This intent to actually do a "Lock Stock meets Dawn of the dead" mash up rather than a Shark filled train wreck is what makes this film endearing.
The characters are simple and generally very satisfying, of course they are often stereotypes but, especially with the inhabitants of the retirement home, they are portrayed with a wonderful amount of charm. (and really you can't be surprised that a film with this title would truck in stereotypes?) Ultimately the simple characters , portrayed well, in a slightly zany but serious situation hangs together and entertains remarkably well. The story beats are well paced, the action is generally good and its entertaining above all. (Although I am unsure Alan Ford is able to be not entertaining) It's no "Shaun of the Dead" by any stretch, it's not as clever or witty. But it isn't a one note joke either, it hangs together as a heist movie in the first half and a decent Zombie flick in the second and gives us some light laughs that derive from the characters and the situations they are put in.
The only criticism that can really be leveled is the film does lack good horror elements; something that some modern Zombie media tends towards. The Zombies are much more an environmental issue than any sort of horror element, in fact these have to be some of the weakest and slowest Zombies to date. (Just look at the Walker vs Walking frame in the preview clip above)
But overall, not high art and not genre changing but you indeed get exactly what it says on the box and presented in an entertaining manner at that. It's a great film to watch with friends, beer and snacks.