Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Something about the title Cockneys vs. Zombies (Netflix, $3.99 Amazon) is uninviting. Maybe the word cockney just doesn’t have a lot of resonance with American audiences. I for one didn’t know it refers not only to a particular type of British accent, but also to an entire demographic of blue collar Londoners, which makes the title a whole lot more meaningful. It’s the difference between Working Class Tough Guys vs. Zombies and People Who Talk Funny vs. Zombies. Then again, maybe the problem is just the presence of “vs.” in the title, which instantly brings up thoughts of Syfy Channel shit like Megatarantula vs. Dinosquito.
Fortunately I gave this movie a chance and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s both a serviceable zombie flick and pretty funny to boot. And yes, I would watch the shit out of a Dinosquito movie.
Obviously and unapologeticaly aping every Guy Ritchie movie ever, C v. Z goes so far as to feature Snatch‘s Brick Top, a/k/a Alan Ford, as a tough-as-nails pensioner living in a retirement home in London’s East End. A flashback scene also includes Dexter Fletcher, who starred as Soap in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Against that borrowed seedy backdrop, Cockneys vs. Zombies begins as a bumbling heist movie and quickly turns into guns blazing Shaun of the Dead with a little Bubba Ho-tep mixed in. It’s nowhere near as good as any of the movies it steals from, but it’s nevertheless entertaining more or less professionally done. It even does one or two smart things most zombie movies don’t think of, like having the heroes assume from the start that only head shots kill zombies. “Everybody knows that!” they say. I’m inclined to agree.
C v. Z makes a few mistakes, not the least of which is failing to explain how slow-moving zombies who can’t catch an old man with a walker managed to reduce London to a cinder in a matter of minutes. Of course, you realize early on you’re not meant to give these types of things much thought. (Maybe around the time the movie tries and fails to make a joke out of punting an undead infant over a wall.) Still, a little more attention to the nuts and bolts of the genre might have been nice.
Some pretty poor CG splatter and simulated gunfire detract from the core horror appeal as well, but there are plenty of practical effects sprinkled in here and there. My favorite involved a clenched zombie jaw that remains attached to one of the characters even after he blows the rest of its owner’s head off with a shotgun. The budget in general seems to have been well spent on things like a massive cast of zombified extras and a wide variety of urban filming locations. Hopefully Alan Ford got a good chunk of that money as well becuase he really sells the movie, delivering many of its best jokes and the only really exciting (though still tongue-in-cheek) action beat.
Added bonus: How has no zombie movie ever thought to introduce a character with a metal plate in his head before this? Think of the possibilities…