Thursday, October 17, 2013

Carrion Comfort Food

Cockneys vs. Zombies

After sitting through Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012, directed by Matthias Hoene), I think I'm going to take a long vacation from zombie movies. This one doesn't do anything that Shaun of the Dead didn't do better, even taking into account this film's greater willingness to indulge in over the top gore. I'm sure that teenage gore hounds out there will love this film even though its best gag is a retread of Day of the Dead. I was bored by it.

The premise: a construction crew in the East End of London uncovers a bunker sealed up by King Charles in the 1600s. The bunker contains the remains of the living dead, who promptly begin to chow down on their discoverers. The construction company is building a massive development that is squeezing out the longtime inhabitants of the area, including the assisted-living facility where the grandfather of our heroes live. Our heroes are Terry and Andy, whose parents were killed in a hail of bullets by the police when they were kids. They've decided to follow their parents into the family business and have planned a bank robbery in order to provide for their granddad and his friends. To this end, they've recruited their cousin, Katy, who is a more competent thief than they are, given that she works as a locksmith during the day; Davey, who is a less competent thief than they are and prone to flirt with his victims; and Mickey, a trigger happy arms dealer with a metal plate in his head. They duly hit the bank, get a bigger score than they were expecting, and are suddenly trapped by the cops. But the cops have bigger problems as they are soon overwhelmed by zombies, leaving our heroes and their hostages to fend for themselves. Terry and Andy are resolved to rescue their granddad, who in the meantime is busy barricading the home and rescuing his friends...

Michelle Ryan in Cockneys vs. Zombies

I dunno. Maybe this film would have been better if it had focused only on one of its two plots. The cockney criminals versus gangsters sounds like it could be fun in a Guy Ritchie meets Manchester Morgue sort of way, while the idea of watching a community of the elderly fending off the zombie apocalypse might be equally fun. By splitting the narrative, the filmmakers have watered down both stories. This further trips itself up by coding its characters as zombie chum. You know the instant you meet him that Mickey is going to be eaten, and you know that the metal plate in his head is going to figure into the story because, of course, you can only kill a zombie with a head shot. Ditto the snotty yuppie scum dude they take hostage. Nobody who is coded as a "hero" is in any danger at any time in this movie, which is a problem. There's not enough threat of death. This is compounded by the way it contrives to arm the characters with Mickey's container box full of machine guns. Man, this movie has a serious gun fetish, which is common enough in American film, but somewhat surprising in a British film. I guess you lust after forbidden fruit. But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes: The heroes are invincible, which is no way to tell a story, least of all a story set at the end of the world.

Still, there are one or two nice gags. The race between an elderly man in a walker and a horde of shambling zombies is pretty funny--no running zombies in this film, these are pure, rigor mortis-ed, Romero zombie--and the retread of the death of Rhodes from Day of the Dead may be derivative, but it is certainly enthusiastic. The actors are mostly fine, with the characters in the elderly half of the film making more of an impression than the younger characters. It's nice seeing what a lovely old woman Honor Blackman became, while actors like Richard Briers and Tony Selby will make this film seem like comfort food to anyone who watches any amount of British television. Alan Ford blusters too much in his role, but he cements the connection to Guy Ritchie, I guess. Of the younger actors, Michelle Ryan--formerly an ill-fated Bionic Woman--makes the best of an underwritten part that trades on her past as a quasi-action star, while Harry Treadway is actively undermined by hair and make-up, who have given him an unfortunate haircut.

Alan Ford and Honor Blackman in Cockneys vs. Zombies

The idea of this movie as "comfort food" is, perhaps, what is most galling about it. Zombies films--particularly zombie comedies--have become largely toothless. Even the gore in this film has no power to shock because everything about the film is too cute. This isn't an insoluble problem--Peter Jackson's Dead Alive was infinitely funnier than this film and its gore was still genuinely shocking. Maybe you need the right kind of sick mind to pull this off. Whatever that mindset is, it's not one that's shared by anyone on this film. One need only look at the bad case of the cutes this gets at the end to know that that's true.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 14

First Time Viewings: 13

1 comment:

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I have wanted to see this one.