The Bow Bells Care Home is under threat and the McGuire’s – Andy, Terry, and Katy – need to find some way to keep their grandfather and his friends in the East End, where they belong. But, when you’re robbing a bank, zombie invasions makes things a lot harder. And let’s face it, they need all the help they can get when their bank-robbing experts turn out to be Mental Mickey and Davey Tuppance.
As contractors to an East London building site unlock a 350-year old vault full of seriously hungry zombies, the East End has suddenly gone to hell and the Cockney way of life is under threat. Equipped with all the guns and ammo they can carry, it’s up to the gang to save the hostages, their grandfather, and East London from zombie Armageddon.
Starring Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman, 2007), Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), Harry Treadaway (The Lone Ranger, 2013), Richard Briers (Much Ado About Nothing), and Alan Ford (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), import zombie comedy Cockneys VS Zombies is scheduled for home release on Sept. 3. Each Blu-ray and DVD edition allows viewers to enjoy the film on the viewing platform of their choice and includes a free digital download of the movie compatible with PC, MAC, iTunes, iPod, iPhone , iPad and Apple TV. Available in-stores everywhere, Cockneys VS Zombies Blu-ray edition (Blu-ray + digital copy) is priced at $24.97 SRP; and the DVD + digital copy edition is available at $19.97 SRP.
In 2008 producer, James Harris and director Matthias Hoene were working together on a horror serial for Hammer Films, entitled Beyond the Rave in which a group of Cockney ravers fight for survival against a vampire coven. Noting the humour that came from pitting two no-nonsense Cockney gents against the supernatural, it was here that the inspiration for Cockneys VS Zombies was born. “They were larger than life, brash characters, and they had no fear and were full of bravado against the supernatural which was very funny,” notes Hoene. Certain that this unlikely character pairing of Cockney and zombie could work as a feature film, Harris then went to sales agent and coproducer Mark Lane who quickly managed to secure full financing for the project.
Having a strong background in the horror-comedy genre, British screenwriter James Moran (Severance) was the perfect choice to develop the script alongside Hoene and together they created a “memorable bunch of good, solid, mostly honest, salt of the earth Cockney family and friends.” Very aware that a title such as Cockneys VS Zombies may place them in B-Movie territory and keen to emphasize that this was not another ‘typical’ zombie movie, Moran developed a script focused on its characters, their lives, trials and tribulations, and created “a heartfelt, genuine story” about the importance of family and community that the outside zombie hoards threaten to destroy.
Cockneys VS Zombies is the feature film debut of Hoene, who comes from a commercials background and won a Golden Lion in Cannes for his first commercial in 2001. Harris suggests that this experience brings a lot of scale and vision to a project such as this – resulting in a cinematic and largescale finish. “I wanted to go for a very shiny, sexy view of East London” states Hoene, “to give it a really cinematic look, in a way that it maybe hasn’t been shown before.” This is perhaps one of the most unique elements of the film – taking the East End of London away from its typical representation as a gritty and shady place. By using a wide-angled lens, he was able to create larger than life characters and a new visualisation of the East End that rivals the dramatic and varied horror settings of American films. Indeed, Hoene even likens the “swashbuckling adventures” of his Cockneys to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and names it as one of the inspirations behind the endless adventures of his characters.
With a genuine passion for zombie films, it is clear to see that homage has been paid to the classic films of the genre: Hoene cites Peter Jackson’s Braindead, widely seen as one of the goriestmovies within the horror-comedy genre; Evil Dead 2; and Dawn of the Dead as inspiration. More generally, the filmmakers attest to their love of British films, also naming Shaun of the Dead and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – satisfyingly referenced in the casting of Alan Ford, with its criminal elements as an influence. Hoene, Harris, and Lane were, however, keen to add to the canon with their own unique offering and wanted to bring new elements to the genre.
“I tried hard to find a genuine truth amongst the canon and make it fresh,” says Hoene, pointing out how the perspective of Cockneys VS Zombies makes it stand apart from other films in the same genre. The choice of Cockneys as the protagonists, for example, never before seen in a zombie movie, is unique as is the East End setting. Equally, although the film employs the classic slow, lumbering zombie, a fresh twist is added in the pairing of OAP’s, who are even slower! Indeed, so unique is Cockneys VS Zombies that the filmmakers have conceived of a whole new genre, dubbing their film an “adventure Zomedy.”
Creating the look of the zombies was also something Hoene felt strongly about, wanting to create a “traditional look” that was immediately identifiable to horror fans. Noted effects and prosthetics designer, Paul Hyett (The Descent, Storage 24), assisted in the development of the zombie look and also felt that an old-school appearance was in order, applying extensive prosthetics to over 800 zombie extras over the 4-week shoot, but notes that the look is subtle as “the film is set over a day so not too much decay can take place.”
A great deal of effort was made to ensure the zombies looked appropriately terrifying and special contact lenses were even made for the zombies to wear. Further, to help co-ordinate the zombie hoards, many of them volunteers – perhaps demonstrating the popularity of the zombie genre – Movement Choreographer Tristan Matthiea was brought on board to teach them how to move properly, even creating a bespoke zombie instructional video that extras watched each morning.
Harris states that all zombie movies are “timeless” and always about character and situation rather than the zombies. And this film is no exception. Indeed, Hoene’s zombies represent not just the supernatural but “an unstoppable force”, a plot device he has used, in this instance, to dramatize the change he has seen throughout his fifteen years spent living in the East End of London.
Often struck by industrial over-development and the resulting destruction of traditional East End neighbourhoods, Hoene employs his zombies to symbolise the overwhelming force of modernisation, encroaching on the lives of the characters. The theme of old versus new is constantly visualised through the location of the “new developments of Canary Wharf and the Olympic area, contrasted against all the older, key landmarks of East London.”
Many scenes in the film deliberately focus on the East End of London in the foreground with shiny, high-rise buildings in the background, epitomizing the struggle between old and new. As Harris notes, there is an undeniable romanticism attached to the people and places of the East End, particularly in British film, and it provides an iconic and unique setting for a film such as this. The theme is further explored in the characterisation of the pensioners, standing for the traditional East End values, and the younger generation, who come to realise the importance of protecting these ideals.
Significantly, the younger characters rob a bank in the hope of getting enough money to keep their grandfather’s care home open, soon to be demolished to make way for new, modern apartments. At the end of the film, two generations of the McGuire family come together to destroy the now zombified surveyor, representing the triumph of traditional values over modernisation. The zombies are merely the background to the real heart of the Cockney’s touching story.