Wasting Away (2007)

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Without zombies, sharks and kung fu, my reviews for this site would be few and far between. When modern zombie films are discussed (which is surprisingly often in my group of friends) this gets brought up, with sensible people going “it’s pretty good, you know”, so I decided to check it out.

Zombiedom this time comes from a government experiment, and we see the black-and-white video of a group of military top brass stood round a test subject, who’s treating this as if he’s going to become a super-soldier. The only bit of colour in this scene is the serum they’re about to inject, and it’s bright green. So, we’ve been reminded of “Re-Animator”, a classic of the genre, along with a nod to the Captain America comics (this being made in 2007) in the first five minutes. Unfortunately, the serum turns our brave subject into a super-strong zombie, so the top brass decide to…dump their remaining supplies of the toxin into the bay. I’m no scientist, but that just seems deliberately wrong. Why so, scientists?

One of the barrels on its way to the bay gets loose and ends up, leaking, outside a bowling alley-cum-bar in a fairly run-down neighbourhood. We’re still in the world of black-and-white by the time we meet our heroes there, and they immediately differentiate themselves from just about every low-budget zombie movie of the last decade by being able to act. One of them is Matthew Davis, who fans of high-quality TV will remember playing Alaric in “The Vampire Diaries”. They’re fairly archetypal – the joker, the lovestruck everyman, the girl next door, and the over-achieving career woman; but their friendship is sketched out well and you find yourself caring about them from the off.

Right about here is where the film gets interesting. Readers of ISCFC will remember my fairly gushing review of “Warm Bodies” – https://iscfc.net/2013/02/10/warm-bodies-2013/ – and this film seems to be its direct forebear, just lower-budget and played more for laughs. The serum makes its way into their ice cream serving machine, and they all take a big bite, and collapse to the floor…only to wake up in colour!

The gimmick of the rest of the film is that we see it from two different perspectives – colour for the zombies, who appear to themselves to be completely unchanged but see everyone else like they’re watching a video on fast-forward; and black-and-white for the rest of the world, who see the zombies like they appear in so many films, moaning, shuffling monsters. It’s a really clever idea, and although it’s a gimmick that gets stretched fairly thin throughout the rest of the film, it’s certainly unique.

Our four friends get sucked into a plan first to combat the disease that the rest of the world is apparently suffering from, then to find a place for them and their zombie brethren to call home. But that’s just boring plot stuff. There’s a nice running joke where being really drunk slows your brainwaves down to such a degree that you can communicate with zombies, including a scene where our heroes try to keep an entire bowling alley full of people plied with booze.

They’re obviously trying to discuss some questions about humanity here, with colour being reserved for being undead and so on; but I think it got lost on the way to the screen a little. Ultimately, it’s a surprisingly good comedy about what would happen if you became a zombie and didn’t know, and any wider thoughts about society are just an added bonus, if they come through. It’s such a relief to see a zombie film that isn’t mostly set in the woods or in a deserted parking lot, to be honest. There’s also quite a few scenes lifted to a greater or lesser extent from other zombie movies, so it’s got that element of loving homage to a whole genre too.

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Wasting Away on IMDB
Buy Wasting Away [DVD] [2007]

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Zombie Driftwood (2010)

That review line may not be accurate

That review line may not be accurate

I have a rule with zombie films. It’s not 100% accurate, but there’s a sliding scale of zombie film quality, and it depends on when the first zombie pops up (pre-credits sequences not included). “Dead Snow”, a film that lots of people seemed to like, I was bored to tears by. The first zombies didn’t really show up til 45 minutes or thereabouts, which is close to the worst I’ve ever seen from a zombie movie. “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn Of The Dead” are both amazing, and non-coincidentally the undead show up right at the beginning.

Before I get started with the review, I’ll give you this film’s zombie arrival time. Apart from 2 seconds of a bloke with a toilet seat round his head, the first zombie doesn’t show up til past 21 minutes, which is kind-of unacceptable for films like this. The piss-poor acting and cheap locations aren’t really enough to carry it, you know?

A group of friends are in the Cayman Islands to see a battle of the bands. The main guy in the group is an obsessive fan of one of the bands and follows them round the world, to the chagrin of his girlfriend; then a cruise ship filled up with zombies comes to shore and…all hell breaks loose.

First things first – they really try to be funny in this. There’s jokes everywhere, mainly coming from the fact that the zombies retain quite a lot of their intelligence. They kill everyone at a TV station and then start making zombie-themed programming, which is a pretty nice touch. No-one really seems that bothered, though, like the zombies are mildly inconvenient rather than flesh-eating monsters.

The zombies, or at least the people with a bit of red splashed on their faces, go about doing the things they would have been doing as the people on an expensive cruise ship. They buy merchandise from the bar where our heroes are holed up; they have first class dining areas on the beach, to serve blood and body parts to the wealthy undead; and so on.

This film certainly seems to be filmed on the Cayman Islands. Perhaps one of the filmmakers is friends with the Governor, or something. There’s too much obvious local flavour for it not to be the case. It certainly looks more interesting than your average zombie film, even if it’s still very obviously super-low-budget. It also seems like all the actors in the Caymans were on holiday the week they made this, because aside from the unhappy girlfriend, the acting in this is beyond rotten. Normally, I’ll try and give low-budget films as much of a break as possible in this regard, but it’s so bad here that it can’t be ignored.

There’s also the matter of the comedy. Some of the ideas are funny – how would a group of zombies organise if they could sort of think for themselves? – but they’ve told everyone to turn up their delivery of the comic lines to 11, and the writing is so poor and the acting so shocking that everything becomes leaden and awful. There’s nothing worse than a comedy that’s not funny. There’s a scene which rips off “CHUD 2: Bud The Chud” which annoyed me too – don’t mess with the classics, guys (I assumed the day when I thought of that film as a classic woild never come, but here we are).

It doesn't get much better than this (sadly)

It doesn’t get much better than this (sadly)

Fans of the metal band October File should be pleased with this film, as the band play themselves and even get to perform a song in its entirety, after they’ve been turned into zombies. Fans of all other bands should probably not bother, however. Oh, and add this to your list of “films where Hitler appears as a zombie”.

To sum up, I’ll leave you with a quote from Blackadder – “It started badly, it tailed off a little in the middle and the less said about the end the better”.

Zombie Driftwood on IMDB
Buy Zombie Driftwood [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]

Ozombie (2012)

I feel bad reviewing this film. It’s bait for sites such as ours, much like “Iron Sky” or “Jersey Shore Shark Attack”. Look at the wacky title! It’s going to be gory and funny, right? ozombie Osama Bin Laden is in his final compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the Americans are closing in. For some reason, most of the inside of that house is what looks like the inside of a storage locker unit, with doors stretching off as far as the eye can see. I knew all that time watching “Storage Wars” wasn’t wasted. So, the soldiers are moving through the storage unit, when all the doors open up to reveal…zombies! Turns out ol’ Osama is using some evil chemicals to turn people into the living dead, and the last we see of him in this sequence, he’s injecting himself with his own chemicals as the door gets kicked in and he takes a hail of bullets.

We then get treated to a young American couple sunning themselves on “the Arabian Sea”, and as they frolic, the world’s favourite terrorist, freshly undead, emerges from his watery grave to claim his first victims. Then we cut to the people who’ll be our heroes, a wacky, multi-ethnic group of soldiers, far behind enemy lines, tasked with…you know what? Who cares. They’re there to kill zombies, and as they’re engaging in a bit of banter, a whole bunch of them come over a hill and we get a nice big fight.

This fight sums up nearly every problem the film has. First up, the soldiers are badly trained and incredibly unobservant. They allow zombies to get the jump on them almost constantly, with no sign of something as basic as watching each other’s backs, let alone anything an advanced squad of badass US soldiers would learn. There’s lots of stale banter, like someone who made this film saw a Tarantino film once, really enjoyed it, but didn’t take any valuable lessons away from it other than banter + violence = awesome. One of the soldiers dies during this fight, and there’s a long emotional scene as they say farewell to their friend, the sort of scene that you’d get just before the climactic sequence in a good film. You want your large emotional moments to have been hard-fought, not to appear ten minutes in with characters we barely know, let alone care about (there’s another, almost identical, scene at about the hour mark, if you really liked this one). There’s also some dubious politics on display here – Barack Obama is referred to as “Barack Bonaparte” as some sort of reference to his tyrant nature, and the idea of the US mission in Afghanistan being anything other than absolutely right and morally justified is never brought up.

There’s also a brother-sister team of people who are in Afghanistan for reasons so lame I can’t be bothered to type them out, who are the fuel that helps drive the movements of the characters in the last half of the film. Two siblings who couldn’t look less alike – the sister is Mediterranean in hue, the brother has ginger hair and under the dirt is probably pretty pale. Anyway. My wife asked me to print a joke from the film in full, to show the awful “banter” we had to put up with. “Confucius say man who farts in church must sit in his own pew”. I say joke, I mean “empty words that made me want to throttle the character who spoke them”.

Ozombie11 Anyway, thanks to their inability to perform basic military manoeuvres with any competence, the soldiers get gradually killed off as they close in on zombie Osama’s new hideout. Will they survive? Will they kill Bin Laden for the second time?

This film isn’t, in terms of these sorts of films, cheaply made. They’ve spent a decent amount of money on makeup and extras, the actors all can act, Eve Mauro and Danielle Chuchran deserve better, and there’s plenty of sets used. What it is, is a big nothing of a film. They came up with a title and a vague concept, and half-assed it to an extraordinary extent on absolutely everything else. At least exploitation / grindhouse cinema in the 70s was open about its reason for existence, but this makes a vague hand-wave in the direction of having a point to make while not being especially…anything, really.

Ozombie on IMDB
Buy Osombie [DVD]

Deadheads (2011)

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Directed by: The Pierce Brothers

‘Deadheads’ is a zombie road trip movie. Some might call it a zombedy and draw comparisons with ‘Shaun of the Dead’. Others will call it a zomcom and say it was a precursor to the recently released ‘Warm Bodies’.

The film begins like most post-apocalyptic undead flicks, a guy wakes up disorientated, unsure of where he is, and how long he’s been under, all around him is chaos. In the case of our lead character Mike, he crawls out of a body bag unaware that he’s dead, but looks pretty zombified. This causes a few funny moments where he bumps into several flesh eating zombies roaming about in the wilderness that scare him shitless.

Mike meets Brent, a typical stoner slacker character who makes for an ideal sidekick, a Nick Frost to Mike’s Simon Pegg. Brent died after an unfortunate auto-erotic asphyxiation accident; he proudly exclaims that he died doing something he loved. The duo head over to a dive bar, and keep a low profile amongst the living. Mike figures out he’s been dead for three years, and decided that what he needs to do most is meet up with the Ellie, his girlfriend, whose engagement ring he keeps in his pocket. As zombies invade the bar Mike and Brent catch a ride from a nostalgically horny Vietnam veteran named Cliff, they head off in search of Mike’s lost love. What follows is a typical road movie, as the characters share a bond, and the journey represents deep personal growth.

The Pierce brothers, Brent and Drew, the co-directors of ‘Deadheads’ are the sons of Bart Pierce, who provided the visual effects on Sam Raimi’s original ‘Evil Dead’. They’ve attempted to create a likeable Bruce Campbell lead in the shape of Mike, but Mike comes across more like the aforementioned Simon Pegg, an everyman figure, who has the potential to grate quite quickly. ‘Deadheads’ is very 80s influenced, not the least with the several pop culture references from that time including a fondful nod to ‘The Goonies’. The harmlessness and joviality prevalent throughout the film gloss over any tender or serious scenes, and when a supporting character meets his bloody demise, we’re left corpsing, as opposed to fighting back tears.

‘Deadheads’ loses its way in the final third. Not the least because we have to sit through a toe curling school reunion scene involving Mike dressed up as a Beaver, and then the ending, a sickly saccharine all’s well that ends well tied up with a ruby red ribbon finish. Nevertheless the directors have done a reasonable job on a budget, and though ‘Deadheads’ isn’t anything other than quite good, it is at least watchable.

The concept of talking zombies with fully operating minds is quite inventive, and ultimately the movie is a rather fun time waster. There are some genuine laugh aloud moments, such as the running joke of Mike losing his arm, and a few witty quips from a gun toting sweary Government worker called McDinkle; the main problem is we’re saved from worrying too much about why people have turned into zombies, and instead are encouraged to focus on willing Mike to catch up with the girl he loves, arguably this is the clumsiest and least believable part of the movie.

– RJW
6/10

Deadheads on IMDB
Buy Dead Heads [DVD]

One More Time (2008)

I think I’ve finally hit the bottom.

“One More Time” is the sequel to the 1964 “classic” ‘The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies”. That’s one of the worst films of all time, without a doubt, a barely comprehensible story about ugly, lumpy youths going to a funfair and the fortune teller who’s actually using poison to create zombie slaves. Or something.

Suddenly, 44 years later, Ray Dennis Steckler decided to make a sequel. Sorry, an “extension”. Made on a budget of $3800, and looking like he could have made it for pretty much nothing, this is maybe the most pointless film I’ve ever seen. I bet your average episode of “Bangbus” has higher production values than this (a line for the promotional literature there).

But, you know, I get the big bucks round here for actually reviewing films, so here goes. An old man who still dresses like he did in 1964 wanders aimlessly about the sleazier areas of Los Angeles, while going to see a shrink about the vivid dreams he’s having (which is a way of padding out the running time using footage from the original film- a running time which is still only 68 minutes, meaning there’s barely half an hour of new stuff in this).

He goes to a club to see dancing women, although his tastes in old age appear to be fully dressed, perfectly nice but completely un-erotic women. The best bit of the film is the sleazy rock n roll band that’s playing at the club, but they’re sadly only on there for a few minutes.

One of his flashbacks involves him walking down a nothing side street, a boring scene when it was first shown in 1964 and truly baffling to be shown again in the “extension”. Then, things get…odder…stupider?…when he meets a woman in a pizza place who claims to be the granddaughter of one of the dancers he killed in the original. She stabs him, and then he wakes up, in the same pizza house, but as Ray Dennis Steckler. The people we’ve met so far are revealed to be his friends and co-workers, and all the talk is about raising the money to make…wait for it…a sequel to “The Incredibly Strange Creatures…”

So, after rendering the first three-quarters of the film completely irrelevant, it finishes with what can only be described as bits and pieces from the end of the tape he used in the camcorder, along with some ripped-off footage which looks like it came from the 1980s (maybe one of Steckler’s other films, like “The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher”), then his wife winning some money in a casino, which allows him to turn his dream of a piss-poor film into a reality. In actuality, he raised the money via Myspace.

I feel bad mocking this film. It’s barely a film at all, for all the reasons stated above, and why it exists is confusing. He’d made one film in the last 25 years (which also just scraped above 60 minutes running time, in 1997) and clearly had learned absolutely nothing from the couple of decades where he was working fairly steadily. It looks, for all the world, like poor home movie footage – he films inside a club, while walking down the street, while at the same funfair he used in 1964…it looks awful and I ‘ll lay good money on there being at least one of the people reading this who made a film with their mates for a laugh one weekend which is at the very least the technical equal of this, with a more compelling storyline (in other words, any storyline at all).

Steckler died the year after this film was made, and given the very very few people who’ll have bought this from his website before it shut forever, it’s disappeared from public consciousness every bit as completely as “After Last Season” (which, to be fair, didn’t stop me from reviewing that). Perhaps it’s not for the likes of you and me, and is merely a fan club style thing, made for his tiny number of hardcore fans. I felt the same way about “Sleepaway Camp 4”.

Unless you’ve got a gun to your head, and you’re fairly sure the person is going to use it, I’d recommend against making even the slightest effort to track this down. Remember Steckler as the young man who made rotten, ugly films:

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and not the old man who made rotten, ugly, pointless films.

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Warm Bodies (2013)

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I don’t know if it was the fact that the last zombie film I saw was absolutely rotten, or that I’d read the book that this was based on a few days previously, or maybe that it was just great, but I loved this film. Hold on, keep reading! I’ve got a few jokes and observations and so on to come yet.

R is a zombie, one with a rich internal dialogue (given to us via voiceover) but who can barely form a word. The first section of the film is some excellent world-building, with him taking us through the day to day activities of the different-than-the-average-undead. We’re introduced to the three main forces – the “normal” zombies, the Boneys (zombies who’ve lost their flesh and any remaining humanity) and the humans. It’s set some unspecified time after the dead start rising from their graves, but it’s probably not more than a decade or so – the humans have retreated behind huge walls which they’ve erected round cities, and the zombies seem to have pretty much everything else.

R is dissatisfied with his lot in death, and when he meets Julie, after he, his friend M (played by the brilliant Rob Corddry) and a group of zombies go on a human-hunting expedition, he rescues her and takes her back to his home inside the airport – a disused 747, where a friendship springs up between the two. The fact he’s eaten her ex boyfriend’s brains luckily doesn’t come up at this point, but his relationship with a human causes him to start…changing.

Say little, but speak volumes

Anyway, that’s about as much spoilering as I can do for this film, because it’s in cinemas right now and I want you all to go and watch it. It’s a sort-of update of “Romeo and Juliet” (R and Julie?) but the zombie trappings really work well for it. There’s not a lot of people getting parts of their bodies ripped off, if that’s the thing for you, but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, a sweet and believable protagonist and a world that makes sense (as much as a world taken over by the undead can).

As I’d read the book just a few days before seeing the film, a lot of my thoughts while watching it were about the stuff the film left out – there were the hints at a zombie society and religion which mirrored that of the humans, and Julie’s father (played by John Malkovich, who seems much happier to be in films like this these days than he was back in the 90s) had an assistant and a much different fate. But they did a pretty good job, I reckon. The book was short and a fast read and I’d guess written with one eye on the film adaptation…but this isn’t a book review (thank heavens, I’ve just started “The Count of Monte Cristo” and that’s more than a thousand pages)

I don’t think it’s perfect, but I really, really enjoyed it. The central idea to the film is clever and, as far as I can tell, an original spin on the zombie myth; it’s got a couple of killer performances at its heart, and superb supporting turns from Corddry and Malkovich; and it’s short! Somewhere around 95 minutes, which should be cherished in these days of 3 hour exercises in directors having more power than editors (or whatever makes them so damn long, I don’t care).

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Warm Bodies on IMDB
Buy Warm Bodies [DVD]

A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

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For this film, you get two reviews for the price of one. My wife, seeing how I toss them off in five minutes much fun I have doing these, wanted to get in on the act. So I’m going to print her review, in its entirety, before I do mine. Drumroll please.

Caroline’s review of “A Little Bit Zombie”:

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Just so as you know, we don’t differ a great deal in our opinion of this film, but I just take longer to get to the point (and, she had more and cleverer stuff to say about this film, but I have to edit).

Dear horror film makers – other locations exist than cabins in the woods. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there are that many tourist-appropriate cabins in the woods of America. Okay, I understand why it’s done – it’s easy to obscure inappropriate locations behind fog; your cast is reduced and you don’t have to dress many sets, meaning low production costs. But go somewhere else! How about deserted motels? Abandoned shopping centres? Schools?

But we get a cabin. Four people are going to a cabin in the woods to complete wedding invitations and wedding planning for our hero and his “bridezilla-to-be” (the video box’s words, not mine). Now, I’ve seen some pretty thin plots for getting the heroes and the source of their death together, but wedding planning is a new one on me. At the same time, we see “that guy” (one of those actors who appears in just about everything, and you’ll recognise immediately) and his blonde assistant (who only a select few will recognise, as the daughter from the early series of SciFi Channel show “Sanctuary”), using a combination of magic and brute force to off a campground full of zombies.

How do these two seemingly unlinked groups come together? Well, we have a mosquito to thank for that, who bites a dead zombie, gets infected then carries the infection to a certain cabin in the woods…and the film then becomes sort-of a farce. Our hero gets bitten, but he’s still human, and the rest of the film is the conflict of him trying to plan the perfect wedding while also developing a taste for brains.

But is this film any good? Well, of course it isn’t. It starts off early – the second couple in the car show zero evidence they’re related, or even friends, but half an hour into the film we find out they’re fairly happily married (oh, and the woman is main zombie’s sister). It’s a sign of the hugely inconsistent characterisation that runs all the way through – the “bridezilla” is sometimes a monster, sometimes a sweetly loving fiancée; the zombie hunters are occasionally casual about their profession, then deadly serious about the end of the world; and the star seemingly can’t decide how he wants to play his character – either as farcical comedy, tragedy or bad-ass monsterdom.

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Anyway, I think I’ve devoted a lot more time to teasing out the problems of this film than its makers ever did – and they didn’t spend their spare time on zombie makeup either, because aside from the slaughter in the first five minutes, the only zombie in the film is our star, and he doesn’t appear to be properly undead.

Thumbs down. A wacky comedy that’s not very funny, and a zombie film with barely any zombies in it. Heck, it was so dull I couldn’t even be bothered to edit it in the names of the cast after I wrote it like I’d normally do for one of these reviews.

 

A Little Bit Zombie on IMDB
Buy A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012)

I don’t get the chance to do this too often on this site, mostly because the sort of films I usually like have been written about by much cleverer people than me, but I absolutely loved this film. No ifs, no buts, it’s funny, fast, violent and silly, it praises the working class, and it’s just loads and loads of fun. Also, although I don’t remember it that way, my wife was the person to recommend this film to me, after I’d said I wasn’t bothered. She had no problem with the cockney accent, either (even though she’s American. I guess they have Eastenders on PBS or something).

The title of the film takes a lot of the heavy lifting of explaining the film to you, so I can just go light on that aspect. A couple of brothers, Terry and Andy, always getting into scrapes but basically good guys, have a plan to rob a bank in order to save the old people’s home that their grandad lives in, and stop him from being sent to Bradford. They recruit Mental Micky, who has a lot of guns, Davey Tuppence, who has already done time for armed robbery (which did not go well for him), and Katy, their cousin, who’s a lock expert. She’s played by Michelle Ryan, off of Eastenders and the US reboot of the Bionic Woman, which I liked – nothing to do with how pleasant Ms Ryan is to look at, or the fights she had with Katee Sackhof, honest missus – but which got cancelled.

Beamed in from another, slightly more serious, film

Some builders attempting to put some awful modern high rise thing in the heart of the East End disturb a tomb, sealed in 1666, and boom we have zombies. The old people’s home gets surrounded, and the bank robbery, which was going quite badly up to that point, is rescued when the police surrounding them get eaten. So, we have two groups of people fighting for their lives, with the bank robbers (now with two hostages) fighting their way across London to go and rescue their grandad.

And that’s about it for the plot. If you’re coming to this site and haven’t seen a bunch of zombie movies, then shame on you. For the rest of you, you don’t need me to tell you how these things go – there’s double-crosses, people getting bitten but saying they’re okay, romances forming, escape vehicles breaking down, heroic sacrifices, all that good stuff. The residents of the old people’s home are some of Britain’s funniest old actors – Richard Briers, Honor Blackman, the guy from Lovejoy who wasn’t Ian McShane, and Alan Ford (who has almost certainly been in at least one Guy Ritchie film, I’m not going to check).

I think this film uses language in an interesting way. Take one of the Wayans Brothers early, funny films. Some of their lines were really just people swearing or saying something not-all-that-funny but in a heavy “street” accent, and I think this film is the same, but using the Cockney accent. It’s great, and I laughed a lot (especially at Grandad’s flashback of being in World War 2, busting into a Nazi base and killing em all, while spewing “come on then, you Nazi mugs! Let’s fackin’ ave it!”), and it’s cool to see a British film unafraid to do it.

I absolutely recommend this film. It’s up there with “Severance” (coincidentally or not, written by the same person!) as one of my favourite British horror films, and hope it does well all over the world. Its digs against the rich developers moving into the East End, and its praise of the good, honest working class east end people is a breath of fresh air. It’s not perfect, by any stretch – Michelle Ryan’s dialogue isn’t all that good, she seems to be in a slightly different film to the rest of them and she’s not the world’s most convincing cockney – but all in all, it’s brilliant.

Cockneys vs. Zombies on IMDB
Buy Cockneys Vs. Zombies [DVD]