Cockneys vs Zombies

Two inept brothers decide to rob a bank after the nursing home their grandfather lives in is threatened with a shut-down order from developers. Bad luck of the draw, they’ve picked the worse time to carry on their crime: a zombie epidemic just struck through the heart of London.

After some on-the-job training directing commercials and music videos in 2008 director Matthias Hoene got enlisted to direct “Beyond the rave,” the first drama to be rolled out by British production company Hammer Films after a twenty year-hiatus. The film, which was made for internet, barely registered on anyone’s radar, however. Later, Hoene would turn his attention to more personal projects. A fan of the delirious wit of films like “Evil Dead 2” (1987) and especially 1992’s “Braindead,” Hoene got an idea to combine this genre with a staunchly British context, the East London neighborhoords.The film’s title, “Cockneys vs Zombies,” is therefore self-evident. Or is it?

But although Hoene did come up with the basic idea he preferred to entrust the writing to a screenwriter, turning to James Moran of “Severance” (2006) fame, a horror film splattered with a healthy dose of black humor. But the scribe could not be released on time from previous duties, having already been attached to a number of projects for Brit television (he has written for “Doctor Who,” “Torchwood,” “Nick Cutter and the doors of time.”)

Hoene himself ended up working on the screenplay for “Cockneys vs Zombies” for nearly a year’s time, having teamed up with another writer. Once they realized that they’d fallen short of their goals they once again got in contact with Moran, who this time was available. He switfly delivered a new screenplay which included parts written for the actors already attached to the project, people like Michelle Ryan (from the British series “Eastenders), big-screen veterans like Alan Ford (“Snatch”)–who happens to be very well-versed in the Cockney accent as you can see below–, Richard Briers (“Much ado about nothing”), who recently died, and former James Bond girl Honor Blackman (from the original “The Avengers”).

“Cockneys vs Zombies” is certainly generous in the gore department. Effects are provided courtesy of Paul Hyett, who’s a lot more talented at this than he was at directing (“The Seasoning House”; 2012). Cuts of all types, bullet impacts, undead people, emaciated people, and whatnot, “Cockneys vs Zombies” does not skimp on horror. Hoene counterbalances this with a kind of good, clean wit that’s reminiscent of horror comedies. The fact that this is a British-made film could invite allusions to “Shaun of the Dead,” for example. But ““Cockneys vs Zombies” manages to find its own personality, in any case, ultimately distancing itself from the latter. And with enough originality to be surprising and entertaining throughout, “Cockneys vs Zombies” is a great catch of a movie.

In theaters this Friday.

WATCH Alan Ford doing the cockney thing in “Snatch”

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