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London Falling

'Cockneys Vs. Zombies' and 'Tower Block'

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Sept. 21, 2012

<i>Cockneys vs. Zombies</i>
Cockneys vs. Zombies

Old London is dying. The great city of back alleys and secret squares is being wiped away for a brighter future. Yet as the bulldozers cleared a path for new Olympic stadiums, they also wiped away a culture. Scriptwriter James Moran has two films at Fantastic Fest – horror comedy Cockneys vs. Zombies and urban thriller Tower Block – running through their ruins. That their paths collide, he calls "completely coincidental. I never plan a theme ahead of time; I only ever realize what I wanted to say after I've finished the script."

CvZ director Matthias Hoene calls it "a love declaration to East London, with pensioners, machine guns, and zombies ... it's my statement against the bland urbanization of our cities." It's an outsider's love letter: Hoene, a transplant from Berlin, came up with the idea of a bunch of young gangsters trying to save their grandfather's retirement home – first from the wrecking ball, and then from the risen dead. He brought Moran, a native Yorkshireman, in to put rotting flesh on those bare bones. Hoene said, "I would send him little squiggles, and he would turn them into full-fledged characters."

Hoene credits Moran with some signature moments, like a pensioner being chased very, very, very slowly across a lawn by the undead. That's why, when the apocalypse comes, Moran is backing Romero-style shamblers over 28 Days Later ... sprinters. "You don't hear the slow ones coming," he says. "You feel safe, you've got lots of time to escape, but then they keep coming, and coming, and coming, and they'll get you in the end. There's more time to see the decay on their faces, too, as they slowly shuffle towards you."

Wipe away the gore, and CvZ is silly and sweet – unlike the bleak world view from the top of Tower Block. This is London at its worst, with the last residents of a crumbling apartment complex cowering behind closed doors as a neighbor is kicked to death. When a sniper starts picking off everyone who turned a blind eye, it's unclear whether it is justice or vengeance. For Moran, these communities represent the double-edged blade of urban renewal. He said, "Tower blocks were meant to be good for communities, but ended up hurting the very people they were supposed to help. So in one way, it's good that they're being demolished, but who knows what will replace them?"

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