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Cockneys vs. Zombies

Shout Factory // Unrated // September 3, 2013
List Price: $24.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 20, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Cockneys vs. Zombies is every bit as brilliant as a movie called "Cockneys vs. Zombies" oughtta be. So, there you
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go. I guess I can wrap up this review right around here.

The march of progress! This old folks home on the East End of London is about to be leveled to make way for shiny, new condominiums. Irasicible old Ray (Alan Ford) wouldn't be homeless or anything, but he'd be shuffled somewhere up north, far away from his friends, family, and the place he's called home for seventysomeodd years. His grandsons Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy (Harry Treadaway) aren't having any of that. They're determined to raise enough cash to keep Gramps in the East End where he belongs, so they do what any rational person would: put together a crew (including ass-kicking cousin Michelle Ryan, double-digit IQ-ed Jack Doolan, and armed-to-the-teeth psychopath Ashley Thomas) and knock over a bank. The heist goes tits up pretty much from word one, but as they creep outside with a couple of hostages (Georgia King and Tony Gardner) to face all those sirens and a small army of cops, they're instead staring down the barrel of a whole lotta nothin'.

Turns out that a zombie apocalypse broke out somewhere in the middle of that Apple Dumpling Gang heist. The East End was just about immediately overrun by the walking dead, and the Maguire Bros. and company are some of the only poor bastards who haven't yet had their innards spilled out all over the sidewalk. Terry and Andy's thoughts immediately turn to their dear old granddad, but they can't trot over to the retirement home to check on him until they sort out this whole hostage-and-homicidal-lunatic situation first. Little do they know that their granddad has everything under control, rounding up all the septuagenarian survivors and barricading themselves inside the kitchen. Ray puts up a good fight for a man of his years, but the undead are swarming the place, and aged prime rib is definitely on the menu.

Before I plopped Cockneys vs. Zombies in my Blu-ray deck, I was kind of concerned that it'd lazily lean on its high-concept
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title as a crutch because...well, it doesn't have to be good; a title like that sells itself. Screenwriter James Moran and director Matthias Hoene don't take the easy way out, though. I mean, there really is an actual story here. Hell, between the siege on the retirement home and the whole thing with the bank robbers, Cockneys vs. Zombies piles on enough story to fill a couple different movies. The momentum is just about always plowing ahead, changing up the scenery or the status quo to keep from ever feeling static. As you could hopefully guess by the title, its sense of humor is gleefully ridiculous. Not as sharp as the very best zom-coms, no, but Cockneys vs. Zombies is funny enough to have kept a doofy smile plastered across my face for an hour and a half straight. There's not anything close to a weak link in a cast like this, especially with Michelle Ryan, Ashley Thomas, and legendary big screen badass Alan Ford stealing every last scene they're in. The supporting cast at the nursing home is also teeming with such familiar faces as Honor Blackman (the once and future Pussy Galore!) and Richard Briers. The movie plays more like a light-hearted action/adventure in tone than anything resembling horror, but the ghouls still manage to be genuinely menacing, and Cockneys vs. Zombies doesn't skimp on the splatter. The movie strikes a perfect balance between honoring the best zombie tropes and standing on its own as something different an' distinctive, and that's exactly what I want out of a movie like this. (...and for anyone keeping track at home? Slow zombies. They do say the zed-word. Most of 'em know the rules about bites and headshots and stuff from word one.)

Anyway, I had a T-total blast with Cockneys vs. Zombies. It's a hell of a lot of fun, the character and plot-type ends of things are surprisingly involving, it's really ambitious in scope and scale, and for crying out loud, you've got Alan Ford on the bill. What else do you need to know? Highly Recommended.

Cockneys vs. Zombies looks awfully slick on Blu-ray too. The digital photography is clean, crisp, and practically
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overflowing with fine object detail. The otherwise robust contrast flattens out a bit in some of the interiors, but no digital noise ever threatens to overwhelm the image or anything. The palette leans towards the gloomy and overcast side of things, but it's still really well-saturated and doesn't have that stale, monochromatic look that too many of the horror movies coming down the pike nowadays settle for. I couldn't spot any excessive filtering, artificial sharpening, or any sputters or stutters in the authoring either. Really solid work all around.

Dual-layer disc. 2.39:1 aspect ratio. AVC.

...and, hey! Cockneys vs. Zombies sounds every bit as good as it looks too. The film's dialogue is clean and perfectly balanced in the mix. Subtitles are an option if you feel like you need 'em, but the accents aren't impenetrable or anything. Bass response is thick and meaty when called for, the occasional bursts of '70s synths make the Moog obsessive in me beam brightly, but what I'm really loving about Cockneys vs. Zombies is the way it wraps its fingers around the rear channels. The multichannel end of things never really relents. The discrete placement of effects is frequently playful, and it lobs out all sorts of pans from the rears to the front and back again. The surrounds are also filled with sprays of gunfire, clinking cutlery, the whir of heavy machinery, and...oh, yeah, legions of the undead. I'm not left with much of anything to gripe about, honestly.

Optional English subtitles have also been piled on. There aren't any dubs or remixes or anything this time around. I think these might be the first LPCM commentaries I've ever stumbled across, for whatever that's worth.

  • Audio Commentaries: Cockneys vs. Zombies features two commentary tracks: one with director Matthias Hoene and the other with writer James Moran.

    Hoene is a reasonably engaging speaker and has plenty to say, but when I look down at my notes, I jotted down next to nothing
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    over the course of that hour and a half. He's careful to point out where many of these sequences were filmed, he chats about lenses and "fuck" passes, and you even get to hear about how these zombies represent the gentrification of the East End. It's a decent listen, but I think this commentary might've benefitted from having someone else in the room...y'know, to have it be more of a conversation.

    Moran's commentary has more of a homebrew feel to it -- recorded on a laptop with whatever headset he happened to have laying around -- but I sure am glad a discussion this rich and varied made it on the disc. Moran certainly covers a greater breadth of topics. Some of them are what you'd expect -- character motivations, how he came onboard the project, shaping the story -- and others aren't so much, such as trying to avoid inviting comparisons to Shaun of the Dead, why he won't write a movie where someone gets set on fire, and posing the eternal question as to why someone would own two machetes. Moran's comments are often very thoughtful without taking themselves overly seriously, delving into moments that didn't make it into the final film, how some characters were combined and others were tossed out entirely as the drafts evolved, and how there were originally quite a few more deaths. You also get a detailed breakdown of the movie's profanity, all the right answers about a possible sequel, and even a voicemail message from Alan Ford. Love it, love it, love it.

  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; HD): You can plow through this reel of nine deleted and extended scenes all at once or pick at 'em one-by-one. There's a lot more living-on-living violence, including an extended Nazi slaughter flashback. Musicians Mack and Dave get quite a bit of additional time in front of the camera, and a zombie that was gunned down offscreen in the film proper turns up in living color here.

    There are two separate commentary tracks available here as well. Hoene's is the more straightforward of the two, generally just noting why these scenes were removed. Moran delves a bit more in-depth, noting what played better on the page than on-screen and explaining an offhand newscaster's note about ravens fleeing the Tower of London.

  • Original Look Behind-the-Scenes (29 min.; SD): This stack of eight mini-featurettes leans a little promotional, so I guess they were making the rounds on YouTube or something a while back. Lotsa making-of footage. Lotsa interviews. Some insight into juggling the tones in this genre-mashup and how Cockneys vs. Zombies contrasts old East End values with the new. You're also treated to one set diary, a detailed look at the splatter effects, and there's even a training video for the 526 (!) zombie extras about how to play undead.

    All of this footage has been upconverted to 1080p24 but is clearly sourced from standard-def. I don't get the appeal, but it doesn't hurt anything, so whatever.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): A high-def theatrical trailer rounds out the extras.

You score a slipcover and a digital copy code as part of the deal too.

The Final Word
With a title as cacklingly inspired as Cockneys vs. Zombies', who really cares about the movie? You're not going to say "no!" to a title like that, so they've got your twenty bucks no matter what kind of flick is attached to it. Well, as it turns out, Cockneys vs. Zombies lives up to its indescribably awesome title, and that's pretty much all I really need to say. Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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