Director Matthias Hoene talks ‘Cockneys vs. Zombies’

Director Matthias Hoene recently spoke with “Breakthrough Entertainment” about his new comedic horror flick “Cockneys vs. Zombies.”

In “Cockneys vs. Zombies,” which opened Friday, Aug. 2 exclusively at Harkins Valley Art, a bunch of east-enders fight their way out of a zombie infested London, lead by an unlikely gang of amateur banks robbers and foul-mouthed plucky pensioners. Stars include Michelle Ryan, Honor Blackman and Harry Treadaway.

Question: This movie is based on an original idea of yours. What inspired said idea?

Answer: I was working with a couple of cockney actors on a web series that I was directing. They were just side characters but because of their big attitudes and their really funny demeanor, they kind of took over the whole series. I thought, “My God! These guys need their own film!” Cockneys are primarily known for their almost [unintelligible] language. But cockneys also look out for one another. They look out for their family. And they defend their East London turf against anyone who tries to invade it. Never in cinema history have cockneys fought against zombies or any supernatural entity. So that is why I wanted to make this film.

Q: The movie really reflects the theme of traditional values vs. modernization. What about that theme appealed to you?

A: I have lived in East London for 12 years now. Like many urban places, it has completely changed over the years. I have seen a lot of old traditional cockney places and hangouts – these beautiful pubs, cafés and shops – torn down and redeveloped into these bland, urban high-rises. I wanted this film to be a declaration of love to the East London that I used to know and is sort of fading away, which is symbolized by the zombie outbreak. I did not want to get too philosophical about it but it is the cockneys themselves – with their foul mouths and shotguns – who defend East London against the zombies.

Q: This movie sees the return of the slow zombie as opposed to the one that moves quickly. Why is that?

A: It takes a long time to make a movie. And when I started developing this film, shows like “The Walking Dead” had not come out yet and everyone was doing fast zombies. I wanted to go back to the slower zombies – the Romero zombies – because they are really more of a device to play a character story against. I did not want this to be an out-of-breath, running-away kind of movie. I wanted it to be a comedy, with cockneys doing their banter and joking about the zombies as they approach them. So it was really crucial for me to make them slow-moving zombies. At the time, everyone was saying, “People are not going to be scared” and “Nobody is going to believe that” and “Nobody is going to take slow-moving zombies seriously.” But we stood our ground.

Q: And I am glad that you did. Some of my favorite scenes in the film are those in which the old folks struggle to outrun… er, outwalk the zombies.

A: Having an old-age pension home full of old cockneys who sort of symbolize the old traditional East London ways was really fun because even though the zombies are slow the pensioners in their wheelchairs and walking frames are even slower. I just love that idea of an old pensioner trying his hardest to walk as fast as he can and even though he is giving it his best he is still slower than the shuffling zombie that is coming after him. And shooting some of those scenes was funny because if a line in the script says, for example, “The gang walks to the docks,” it can take 10 minutes just to film that one line when you have eight actors who are more than 70 years old.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you intended this film to be a declaration of love to East London. You shot scenes at some pretty spectacular places. Was it easy to get permission to do that?

A: It was not easy but it was especially worth it. It is an independent movie and people often make a contained movie on the sort of budget that I was working with. But I really wanted to show the whole area. The production team really pulled that out of the bag, the fact that we could shoot it all those places – like the financial center of England. We were shooting machine guns and pensioners were doing stunts,jumping onto boats and battling zombies. I can only imagine what the bankers looking out of their windows thought of the scenes that were happening at their feet.

Q: Finally, if moviegoers come away from this film with only one message or lesson, what do you hope that would be?

A: There are a couple of lessons. The first lesson is, if you get caught in a zombie apocalypse, the safest place to be is near a bunch of cockneys. The other one is, family sticking together is always the way forward.

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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