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COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (2012)
Zombies invade the East End of London, where hapless brothers Andy (Harry Treadaway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) plot to rob a bank with the help of their feisty cousin Katie (Michelle Ryan) in order to save their granddad’s (Alan Ford) old folks home. The robbery doesn’t exactly go without a hitch, as the boys’ psychotic friend Mickey (Ashley Bashy Thomas) shoots up the place, leading to a confrontation with the cops. Soon, though, the law is the least of everyone’s problem, because some construction dolts have unearth centuries old zombies that have now begun to infest the city. And oh yeah, back at that old folks home? Grandpa endeavors to save his fellow old folks from the walking dead. Not an easy job, given that half of them can only move at a snail’s pace.
Directed by Matthias Hoene, the British “Cockneys vs. Zombies” (cockneys being what you call the residents of London’s East End area) is obviously intended as a crowd pleaser. Part slapstick comedy and over-the-top action, as the boys and cousin Katie (along with an increasingly erratic Mickey) and a pair of hostages try to figure out what’s happening and survive. The zombies, alas, are more comedy fodder than fearsome. And let’s face it, when a handful of old people with second hips can beat you back with kitchen appliances, you’re not really all that deadly. “Cockneys vs. Zombies” is, of course, a horror-comedy, with a big emphasis on the comedy. It’s obviously attempting to replicate the success of films like “Shaun of the Dead”, and Hoene and company certainly do their best to get there, even if they eventually fall way short.
It’s not an altogether bad horror-comedy, if that’s what you’re looking for. The film’s best comedy bits come early on when director Matthias Hoene quick-cuts to amusing stories from the past. At just 80 minutes, it’s a reasonably fast watch, with few standout performances, though Michelle Ryan and Alan Ford are clearly having a blast. Ford in particular is hilarious to watch, and what’s there not to like about Michelle Ryan in tight black leather? I’d brave the zombie apocalypse with her anytime.
DEAD SEASON (2012)
A low-budget venture from director Adam Deyoe that, for the most part, actually manages to do a hell of a lot with the resources at hand, “Dead Season” follows EMT Aaron (Scott Peat) and fellow survivor Tweeter (Marissa Merrill) as they seek shelter from the zombie apocalypse on an island off the coast of Florida. Upon arriving on the island, things look up for the couple, and they meet Conrad (James C. Burns), the self-proclaimed protector of the island, who has assembled a small force to keep the survivors, including his estranged daughter safe. Conrad has a very specific set of rules installed, but the introduction of Aaron and Tweeter sets off a chain of events that might end up dooming them all. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Set almost entirely on an island, “Dead Season” features two pretty strong leads in Peat and Merrill, but like most indie productions, it has to make due with plenty of amateurs in the cast. Fortunately, Peat and Merrill as our surviving couple do shoulder a lot of the film’s heavy elements, of which there are a lot in “Dead Season”. This isn’t exactly “Shaun of the Dead” — surviving the zombie apocalypse is serious business. The film is gritty and moody and for the most part downright depressing, with things not exactly looking up even after our heroes have found the island (which happens early in the film). As is often the case in today’s zombie movies, the living can be just as dangerous (if not more so) than the dead.
“Dead Season” doesn’t do a whole lot you haven’t seen before (Romero, for instance, already went to an island setting in “Survival of the Dead”), but the film does successfully overcome much of its budget shortcomings with a limited cast and by keeping the tension between the survivors the main focus. Don’t get me wrong, the zombies attack regularly throughout the film, and Deyoe certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood and guts. “Dead Season” is pretty bloody throughout, and despite being mostly a gloomy affair for much of its running time, it does offer up a surprisingly upbeat ending. Go figure. Maybe the zombie apocalypse won’t be so bad after all?
DEVIL’S CROSSING (2012)
James Ryan Gary’s “Devil’s Crossing” is a zombie Western (a $1 million dollar movie shot for way, way less, as Gary jokes in one of the film’s special features), that follows a mysterious bounty hunter name Shadrach (Michael Sharpe) as he arrives in a small, one-horse (and apparently, one-saloon) town. Here, our hero dispenses justice to the town bully while sipping milk. Then, zombies show up. I’m not kidding. Zombies just sort of show up out of nowhere around the 30 minute mark, though they don’t really do anything until the 45-minute mark. Shot on a budget with a limited cast, “Devil’s Crossing” is a mish-mash of genres, a purposefully anachronistic Western/horror flick. Budget aside, the film clearly has a lot of ambition, but lacks the experience in front and behind the camera to pull all of it off. They sure give it the good ol college try, though.
“Devil’s Crossing’s” big idea is that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where the human population have de-evolve back into Old West-style civilization thanks to a war or some such. (The official synopsis explains it, but frankly, if it doesn’t get explained in the movie, it doesn’t exist to me.) So you get saloons, horses, and prostitutes working in said saloons. Currency, as well, have returned to “bits”. It’s all a bit convoluted, and honestly, I’ve probably explained more of the film’s background in the previous sentence than the film does in its entire 80-minute running time. Gray gets a lot of mileage out of leading man Michael Sharpe (who looks a bit like a disheveled Bill Paxton), whose Shadrach is a zombie killing machine. Of course, it helps that our hero is armed with magic guns that never run out of bullets. He’s also pretty nifty with a katana too, as it turns out.
Gary obviously shot “Devil’s Crossing” on a very limited budget, so production values and the like will have to be overlooked. The script, on the other hand, could have used some judicious editing. Talking scenes simply go on for way too long, and the editing is sporadic at best. (For instance, I thought this was a one-street town, but the time it takes those zombies to finally reach the saloon, you’d think the town was miles long.) Gary should also have rein in some of the overacting by the cast, in particular Patrick G. Keenan as the Big Bad, and there was a little too much scowling going on for my taste. On the plus side, the film features a hell of a lot of the red stuff (most of it CG), so gorefiends should be pleased as punch. Who knew CG blood could fly so freely and often?