Okay. You’re probably out there somewhere twiddling your thumbs and biding your time until the final installment of the Cornetto Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy (Edgar Wright’s The World’s End) arrives in theaters at summer’s end. But if you need a decent jolt of British wit and goofy horror this weekend…
…Matthias Hoene’s debut film, Cockneys vs. Zombies, should definitely hold you over in the meantime. I spoke with the director in New York last week, and here’s just some of what he had to say.
Dread Central: So, was Cockneys vs. Zombies always the title of the film?
Matthias Hoene: It was, yeah. At first we thought oh, it’s just a working title, but it sort of stuck. It is a “versus” title, but it felt appropriate for the film.
DC: The cockneys in the movie are kind of treated as second class citizens and obviously zombies are at the bottom of the totem pole as far as the social hierarchy, so why can’t they all just get along and coexist? You’d think they’d have some commonalities.
MH: (laughs) Well, maybe that’s for the sequel. They can make friends and make peace. This film… yeah, exactly, I guess what I wanted to do with Cockneys vs. Zombies was make a working class zombie movie. One that shows the underbelly of the criminals and the hustlers, not the posh, middle-class types that are often in British comedies.
DC: Obviously, the majority of the zombies are young. I hate the term hipster because I hear it all the time. but was that intentional to cast much younger people as zombies going after the elderly? Or is that just who showed up for the casting call?
MH: The zombies are mostly, actually, fans. and the truth is older actors don’t often want to be extras in a movie whereas younger people are more up for that sort of thing. It would have been nice to have a broader mix. We did have a couple of older, kind of pensioner zombies but it was quite difficult to organize. And there’s two hipster zombies specifically that I wanted to kill and did. And we have, like, hoodie zombies or hoodie kids. I did try to kind of represent every sort of part of East London culture in the zombies… and then kill them.
DC: It’s always kind of therapeutic. I think it works for the film though – the fact that they’re younger. Especially at the end when you have the speech about staying out of East End. It’s kind of a little bit of social commentary on gentrification.
MH: I’ve lived in East London for twelve years now and it’s such a beautiful place in terms of the old sort of culture. The old pubs and bars and restaurants that the Kray brothers and the old cockney gangsters used to hang out in and the jellied eels shops. And a lot of them are being torn down and redeveloped into new anonymous apartment complexes. So, it was sort of my love declaration to East London and we sort of weaved in those themes into the film in a subtle way. You know, at the end of the day there’s the evil developers who start the zombie outbreak who want to get rid of the cockneys.
DC: I’ve noticed in a lot of UK horror movies that they have more of an urge or a want to add some social commentary to horror movies. Do you think maybe it’s a lingering punk attitude that’s against the establishment a little bit? My dream would be to see the Sex Pistols in the late ‘70s be in A Hard Day’s Night with zombies. But do you think there’s something to that?
MH: Yeah, absolutely. For me, that’s one of the fun things about horror. Take those ideas and messages and say them without it sort of being labored. You just weave it into a horror plot and it’s fun. And I like those anti-establishment messages. There’s just no other way of saying those things apart from a horror movie.
DC: It’s got a great soundtrack, too, with a lot of post-punk tracks. The title song is “Monster” from Automatic, which has been around for a little while. Did you already know of that song? It seems like the perfect title song for the movie. It sounds like it was written for the movie almost.
MH: Yes, absolutely. That was the one I knew. That’s the first one we kind of picked up and got together. And then of course “Predict A Riot” by the Kaiser Chiefs …
DC: And you’ve got some Suede in there as well …
MH: Yeah, exactly… Suede. You know, Kaiser Chiefs watched the scene and let us have the track. I mean, we didn’t exactly have the budget to pay them properly but it was sort of great that they did that.
DC: Did you edit to those songs at all and did they kind of inform how the action scenes played out? Or do you usually edit to punk music?
MH: Actually, funnily enough I tried to get a lot more punk music in there than there is because it’s quite difficult to edit the film to proper punk because they’re often so full of energy. I tried to get slower versions of them written. We tried to get the Sex Pistols and all those sort of things. So, there was a little bit of back and forth but often you do edit to a track that, more often than not, doesn’t end up being the final track that already sets the mood and sets the tone.
DC: Out of curiosity, what was the Sex Pistols track? Was it maybe “Pretty Vacant”? That would be a good one for a zombie movie.
MH:(laughs) Yes, exactly. Exactly.
DC: I know the reference of an “Abercrombie zombie” in the film is more of a play off of the Cockney slang. We always think that those kind of accents are really accentuated and blown up a little bit too much, but you really do hear that kind of talk pretty often, don’t you? That kind of slang?
MH: Absolutely, absolutely. I tried to keep it relatively contained in this film. We didn’t go too slangy with it and try to make it sort of understandable to everyone basically. But yeah, cockneys do speak like that today. They like doing it.
DC: I liked the writing in that scene. How did you end up getting together with James Moran? I remember seeing Severance at Fantastic Fest in Austin a few years back and we had a lot of fun with it and I still recommend that film every once in a while. And that film has a little bit of commentary as well. It’s anti-war and against arms dealing and what not.
MH: Yeah, James always tries to weave in a little bit of that, of course. I’d seen Severance as well of course and um, we’d worked on something else before actually that didn’t go anywhere. But when I came up with the idea, James was the first writer at the top of my head and he wasn’t available for a half a year, unfortunately, because he was writing “Dr. Who” or some TV thing he was doing. So, I developed it with Lucas Roche, my editor. Just kind of a first draft, and then we got James on board to actually do a page one rewrite. But it was sort of interesting because there was some things structurally that developed in the first draft that held it tied together. The construction site with the bank and all those sort of things to make the genre mix of crime caper and zombie movie work. But James brought so much of his own quirky sense of humor to it which is amazing. His idea was the pension home, making it a pension home and making it pensioners which is one of the big things in the movie, really. That the zombies are slow but the pensioners in their wheelchairs and their walkers are even slower!
DC: It’s competitive.
MH: Exactly. To me, what was great working with him is that we tried to push ourselves to give the viewers as many things they had not seen before in a zombie film as possible. So, slow motion, zombie chases, and zombies with plates in their heads. And pensioners with machine guns!
Cockneys vs Zombies rolls its way into theaters today in limited release and onto DVD and Blu-ray September 3rd from Shout! Factory.
The film is written by James Moran (Severance) and details the story of a group of bank robbers who unlock a 350-year-old vault only to unleash an army of zombies.
Michelle Ryan (188.8.131.52.), Harry Treadaway (Control), Honor Blackman (Bridget Jones’ Diary), and Jack Doolan (Cemetery Junction) all star in Matthias Hoene’s feature Cockneys vs. Zombies.
Cockneys vs. Zombies is the story of Andy (Harry Treadaway) and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker): two hapless cockney brothers who try to save their grandad’s (Alan Ford) care home by robbing a bank. At the same time a virus sweeps across East London, turning all the inhabitants into flesh-eating zombies. Faced with hordes of undead zombies, the challenge is to rescue a home full of tough old folks, escape with the loot, and get out of London alive!
n. pl. cock·ney or Cock·ney [kokni]
1. (Social Science / Peoples) (often capital) a native of London, esp of the working class born in the East End, speaking a characteristic dialect of English. Traditionally defined as someone born within the sound of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church.
2. (Linguistics) the urban dialect of London or its East End for example “Dog and Bone = Phone”.
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