Review: Toronto After Dark Film Festival – Cockneys vs Zombies
Cockneys vs Zombies (2012) is rousing, exuberant, and hilarious. Director Matthias Hoene accomplishes what most filmmakers seem incapable of doing: making a consistently involving horror/comedy that never condescends to its genre or its audience. The similar American film Zombieland (2009) represents the antithesis of Hoene’s achievement; that film is snarky, rarely funny, and has little to no knowledge of or respect for filmic zombie lore. The comedy in Zombieland was an attack on the supposed generic conventions of zombie movies (of which the filmmakers clearly had little knowledge), and on those who love them. Cockneys vs Zombies has nothing but respect for the genre. Even a moment midway through that seems to be making a mockery of slow zombies is actually clever and good-natured; the humour arises because the filmmakers have adhered to generic convention and applied it honestly in a ridiculous but believable situation.
The film features the standard post-Night of the Living Dead (1968) cinematic zombie: a slow, shambling creature that feeds on the flesh of the living, spreads its virus through bites, and can only be killed by intense trauma to the brain. Cockneys vs Zombies isn’t trying to reinvent the popular movie monster, but that’s not exactly a significant problem; the film is peppered with strong, delightful characters who are a joy to watch. The zombies may be faceless, but their potential victims certainly aren’t, which proves to be a considerable virtue; despite the lighthearted tone, there is considerable tension when these characters are in peril, because they are so likable and entertaining.
Furthermore, Cockneys vs Zombies wisely avoids a set-up with overly deliberate pacing. The zombie attacks begin almost immediately, and the characters instantly recognise the nature of the threat. In other words, the film is never bogged down by unnecessary filler; each moment is either a perfectly delivered bit of comedy, or a creative and exuberantly gory death. It’s a blast from start to finish.
And because it’s excellent, Cockneys vs Zombies deserved a better lead-in than the short film that preceded it. D.N.E.: Do Not Erase was introduced by its maker in a most arrogant fashion. The film, you see, is a time travel movie made by a guy who admitted to being “pissed off” by time travel movies. So clearly, he feels he’s above the genre. After watching his poorly acted, boring, and sappy mess of a movie, I can only state that he is sadly mistaken. He claimed to have made a film from a script that solved the time travel paradoxes in such works as Back to the Future (1984) or the recent Looper (2012). I see no such solution in D.N.E.: Do Not Erase, but rather a glut of misguided pretension.
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