Zombies are having a bad time of late. In movie mash up terms they been pitted against both Abraham Lincoln and strippers. Rumour has it that Clive Barker is also working on a project where he intends to pit them against Gladiators, but before that they will face perhaps their most fearsome foe yet: The Cockney! Okay, perhaps not so fearsome, because as depicted here cockneys are potty mouthed, borderline psychotic, but woefully inept criminals.
Here, the Bow Bells care home for the elderly is under threat of closure and the grandchildren of one of its residents,Ray, played by the fantastic Alan Ford (the only authentic sounding cockney in the cast), decide to rob a bank to save the home. Unknown to them some building contractors have opened a 350-year-old tomb that houses the undead. Let the carnage begin!
The story mainly concerns itself with the 20-something grandchildren having botched the robbery, yet still succeeding in getting the cash before having to battle their way through hordes of plodding zombies to the care home where the pensioners are embroiled in their own battle against the living dead. The film’s masterstroke is the casting of old time troopers Alan Ford (Snatch), Honor Blackman ( dropping the F word like it’s second nature) and bizarrely but most entertainingly, Richard Briers. For the majority of the film the scenes flit back and forth between the two group, but the OAPs are much missed when they’re not on screen. Indeed they put the scarcely convincing younger cast, which includes Michelle Ryan (Eastenders ) and Harry Treadaway (Control), to shame and the film would have benefitted greatly from concentrating on the barely living pensioners fending off the barely alive zombies. As the younger cast serve mainly to appear as zombie fodder it’s pretty easy to guess who’ll be next on the zombie menu.
Both script and direction are Guy Ritchie-lite, never quite achieving the twisted plotting or bravura camera work of those films, notably Snatch. That said there are enough quirky touches to distinguish the film. The use of quick throwaway scenes a la Father Ted are entertaining (watch out for Dexter Fletcher’s cameo), a zombie football hooligan riot, and the mangled, ludicrous cockney rhyming of one pensioner is very funny indeed and could have been developed more than it is.
Although a horror comedy, there’s enough here to keep gorehounds happy. Limbs fly, characters are disembowelled, heads explode and toddlers get drop-kicked with abandon. Money has been well spent on some extremely blood drenched effects. Heavy duty armoury is used by just about everyone and there can be little more satisfyingly startling than watching Richard Briers, that bastion of middle class BBC sitcoms, relishing the moment to merrily machine gun the undead from behind his zimmer frame.
Thankfully we’re spared the stereotype of cockneys guzzling jellied eels, reminiscing about the blitz whilst dressed as pearly kings and queens( Gawd luv em!) but the film makers haven’t managed to resist the charms of a cockney knees up courtesy of Chas & Dave over the end credits,( ‘fill em full of lead but they won’t stay dead!’ – zombies, that is, not Chas & Dave!)
All in all this benefits from not taking itself too seriously though Alan Ford’s somewhat jarring paeon to the indomitability of London’s East End (and some would say that there’s little difference to a zombie plagued East End to how it is today) brings a bigger wave of nausea than the sight of decapitated mutilations can achieve. It does lack the sly social subtext of Shaun of the Dead and even at 88 minutes the film drags a little, but ultimately it is generally amusing yet gory fun.
Review by Simon Hooper.