Shock Interview: Talking Cockneys vs. Zombies With Director Matthias Hoene

Recently, sat down with Matthias Hoene to discuss his latest flick Cockneys vs. Zombies. The up-and-coming director had lots to say about his breakout hit. Hoene gave us the details on walking the line between horror and comedy, the films that influenced the project, why he is a die-hard fan of slow zombies, and more.

The film unfolds something like this: Cockneys vs. Zombies finds a group of bank robbers faced with an unexpected obstacle: a zombie epidemic. The criminals band together to kill zombies but still make sure to set aside ample time for wisecracks. The finished product is like a mash up of a Guy Ritchie film and Dawn of the Dead.

The film is set to hit select theaters Friday August 2nd. 

Shock Till You Drop: Do you think of Cockneys vs. Zombies as more of a horror infused comedy or a comedy infused horror film?

Matthias Hoene: Well, when I set out to make it, I wanted it to be a Cockney adventure with zombies. I would call it a zombie adventure. I think I made a zombie film with comedic elements. The characters and the situations came first – we tried to make the comedy come from that.

Shock Till You Drop: The film blends horror and comedy quite well. I really enjoyed it.

Hoene: It’s the most difficult thing to get right. When I first watched Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive on VHS back in the day, that was a big moment for me. Also, Raimi’s Evil Dead II and the Romero Zombie films were big influences. Everything in the film tries to come from a true place. You observe what happens when zombies attack a pension home. The zombies are slow, but the residents are even slower than the zombies. When I set out to do Cockneys vs. Zombies, I was working on a series that had two Cockney characters in it. It was so funny when they were faced with a sort of natural enemy, because unlike most horror protagonists, Cockneys are not fazed by anything. They never show any fear, and they always have a machete and a shotgun in their hand. They can turn around, cock their gun and blow the monster away. I love that sort of big-mouthed Cockney attitude in a horror film. That’s sort of where the idea for Cockneys vs. Zombies came from. So, I mentioned the idea to a producer who started developing it; together with James Moran – who is a great writer and horror comedy fan – we worked together to put a lot of things in the script that you wouldn’t see in another zombie film. There are all those elements like the slow motion chase and the bank robbery. We really tried to make something that is incredibly unique and gives you a lot of elements you haven’t seen in another zombie film.

Shock: While we are talking about the script, I am curious how you ended up collaborating with James Moran. I am a big fan of his work – particularly Severance.  

Hoene: We were talking about another project beforehand. We me through an agent. He wasn’t able to work on that particular project, but a few months later, he had an opening in his schedule; he was a big fan of the premise and we just sort of kicked off on it back and forth. I would send him lots of cartoon scribbles and drawings – zombies with steel plates in their heads – and he would turn that in to a character. We went back and forth and had a really great collaboration. He came up with lots of great stuff.

Shock: In watching the film, it appears that your cast was having a lot of fun making the film. Was it an enjoyable film to direct?

Hoene: It was fun. I really loved the set and everything. Logistically it was difficult. I didn’t want to make a contained horror film; I wanted to make a big horror film that goes all over the place and has big fight sequences. So, it was a lot for me to organize, but at the same time, because it was fun and everyone was having a good time, we were able to create great moments. People were constantly working to make the project better.

Shock:  We talked about how you used slow zombies in the film. Was there ever any consideration of using the more contemporary ‘fast zombie’?

Hoene: When I started developing the project everyone was using fast zombies. But I was really keen to stick with the more traditional Romero-style ‘slow zombie’. I kind of felt that fast zombies could make a film in to a ‘chase’ movie where everyone is sort of running away. I wanted to have the kind of moments where the Cockneys can talk while the zombies are approaching and crack jokes. I have always liked the slow moving zombies. It just feels more interesting to me, because it becomes about the character dynamic as opposed to who can run faster.  

Shock: Glad to hear it. I prefer slow zombies, as well. So, how long of a process was it from conceptualizing the film to actually completing the shoot?

Hoene: I think they say that an average movie takes about nine years from the original idea to the screen. We took a lot shorter approach than that. I think it was probably about a year or two of development and financing before we really got going.

Shock: Once you did get up and running, how long was the shoot?

Hoene: The shoot was six weeks. It was a short six weeks, then there were two or three months of editing, music for another two or three months, and then sound mix. It took about a year after the shoot for the film to be complete. It takes a long time to put everything together.

Shock: That must have been nice to have six weeks to shoot the picture. A lot of independent films are shot over the course of a couple of weeks.

Hoene: Yeah, it was great. Credit goes to the producers. We didn’t have that luxurious of a budget, but they managed to get a lot out of it for us, which was great.  Because of the set pieces of this film, we couldn’t have done it any faster. With shots like the zombie flying out of the back of the van, that takes several hours to shoot because of all of the set up time. There are a few shots like that, which added a lot of shooting time.

Shock: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk with us. I really enjoyed the film.

Hoene: The pleasure is all mine. 

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