What’s that coming over the hill? A far, far better film than anything with this title deserves to be, that’s what. Starting off on a construction site in London’s East End where vultures loom ominously and incongruously, workmen uncover a crypt sealed up in 1666 by order of King Charles II. Before someone can say “Maybe there’s gold in there,” or just after, actually, two likely lads have broken in, stumbled about a bit, and got attacked by the kind of reanimated skeleton one normally only sees wandering down fashion catwalks.
Meanwhile Rasmus Hardiker is planning to rob a bank with his utterly incompetent gang so they can save his Grandad (Alan Ford) from being thrown out of the old folks home where he lives with Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton in a wheelchair, Tony Selby and his wooden leg, Georgina Hale still playing the trollop after all these years, and a host of other sitcom regulars and bit players that will provoke nods of affectionate nostalgia in those of a certain age, and blank looks from everyone else.
Rasmus’s gang includes Mental Mickey, who’s had a metal plate inserted into his skull after his exploits in the Iraq war, and Michelle Ryan (ex Bionic Woman revamp) as a safecracker. Mental Mickey isn’t entirely stable, and has a lockup filled with machine guns and other weaponry which needless to say comes in terribly handy at the end of the film. The bank in question is run by obnoxious Tony Gardner and when everything goes wrong despite the entire gang (including Michelle) wearing fake moustaches as disguises they end up taking hostages and escaping from the bank only to find the East End of London in the grip of a zombie apocalypse. Will they get to the care home before Grandad and his chums get eaten?
COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES deserves a UK cinema release, it really does, especially as this is the only country where audiences are likely to get most of the in-jokes and “cultural” references. The soundtrack is great, featuring everything from The Automatic’s title song to the Kaiser Chiefs’ I Predict a Riot to the theme from Grandstand, with cockney chart toppers Chas and Dave providing the end title knees up with a specially composed song about the living dead. A scene in which the slow-moving living dead chase the even slower moving Richard Briers aided only by his Zimmer frame deserves to enter the Britcomedy hall of fame, and the ending rounds off the good-natured jaunty merriment of it all. I liked it far more than I was expecting, and it’s also a delight to see a film in which OAPs end up being the heroes. Congratulations to writers James Moran & Lucas Roche and director Matthias Hoene for making such a good-natured funny horror film in the spirit of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. If there is a sequel only NORTHERNERS vs ZOMBIES could possibly be more entertaining.