Cockneys Rule and Zombies Drool: Director Matthias Hoene talks ‘Cockneys Vs Zombies’

matthias hoene

Opening in select Cineplex theaters across Canada for two shows only, as part of Cineplex’s ‘Great Digital Film Festival’ starting this Friday Feb 1, 2013, is the horror comedy that made a huge splash at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Cockneys vs Zombies. The Movie Junkie was able to sit down with director Matthias Hoene to talk about his film, his influences and whether the Cockneys will make a return to the big screen.

Movie Junkie (MJ) – Hello Matthias, I must say I really enjoyed your film. Can you tell us about some of your biggest influences in putting the film together?

Matthias Hoene (MH) – Well the journey started when a friend of mine slipped me a grubby, slightly dodgy copy, of Peter Jackson’s Braindead. I snuck it into the VHS player after my parents had gone to bed, and sat in the living room watching it on my own and it really blew my mind away. What I loved about it was it was so gory, the goriest film I’d ever seen, probably still one of the goriest out there, yet so funny at the same time. It was full of heartfelt character work and story at its core, it really had a big impact on me and it’s exactly my sense of humor. Dark, twisted, action-packed filmmaking but with a heart to it. Evil Dead 2 I loved as well as it had many similar themes. Some of the other influences come from Aliens, Terminator and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen to name just a few.

Cockney vs Zombies 1

MJ – Wow, that’s a great story. I have to ask you where the idea of using a care home (elderly nursing home) in the film came from, as it’s a brilliant setting and Alan Ford almost steals the show!

MH – Well it came from the idea that we needed something for our young heroes to fight for and to not feel selfish, we wanted them to rob a bank for a reason and the care home seemed a fit great in that a) it symbolizes the old guard of the cockneys slowly being pushed out of east London and old cockney culture disappearing out of London and b) the idea of the zombies being slow and the pensioners being even slower. I loved that idea and felt it was a really good hook for a zombie film and I hoped it would give the film its own place and feel, unique in tone and voice.

Cockneys-vs-Zombies 3

MJ – It certainly does separate itself from the pack, especially with the elderly Cockneys as our protagonists. That said my favorite character may have been the demented and insane Mental Mickey played by Ashley Bashy Thomas. Where did this character come from and how did you come about casting Thomas?

MH – With the Mental Mickey part we could have cast the stereotypical east London thug, but we decided we couldn’t do that and tried something different. We found Ashley who is a really handsome straight up, doesn’t drink only eats chicken and no red meat, wholesome kind of guy. He’s a great actor, he’s already been in a couple of movies before, and when we watched him we noticed he really has a lot of charisma. After casting,  I spoke to him in the costume session and said ‘Ashley I want to take you to a really dark and twisted place, are you going to be cool with that?” He looked at me and said “You just made my day Matthias” and we created this character. We wanted something really iconic, he was supposed to be the unstoppable zombie, the zombie with a steel plate in his head that you can’t shoot, can’t kill. We put a scar on the side of his head and gave him unbranded clothes, like he just picked something out of the dumpster and put it on, this shifty character. He went quite crazy with his performance and I thought either people will hate or love this cause it’s crazy and off the hook. I also like that he’s so different in this film than anything else he’s been in.

MJ – Like I said before, I am a big fan of the performance. One of the standout parts of the film is the set pieces and what you would describe as the ‘kills’. The production looks slick and is certainly inventive, how were you able to pull off a look that looks anything but low budget?

MH – Thank you very much. First off we had six weeks of shooting, which is a lot for a low budget film, and all the credit and thanks must go to the producers for making that happen. Some set pieces we would spend half a day on, just to get a 4-second shot, like the zombie flying out the back of the van.  We rehearsed and made sure it was really well choreographed and safe as it’s always kind of scary when you do an action movie as injuries will happen. But even though it’s a scary process we were really keen to have those moments, and personally I would have loved to have even more because I’m greedy and as a director we always want more. I tried to make sure we had enough balance between the comedy, character moments and the action moments. Every day on set was a huge challenge with choreographing in terms of 6 to 10 lead actors and 40 background extras with prosthetic work on all of them. Along with staging some gun fighting and other action staging with half a day to do it, every day was intense and it felt like I was on a big movie set and had to be super decisive to make sure it got done. But that’s what film making is about, making choices and then going through with it. I had a great time though; I love the energy and adrenaline of a short shooting schedule.

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MJ – It certainly sounds like you guys had a hectic yet fun set to work on. So tell me Matthias, will we be seeing the Cockneys in another big screen romp?

MH – We’ve had conversations about sequels but you know I love the idea of making this unique and making it a one off. While I support original ideas and new movies I can recognize the need for sequels and remakes in terms of marketing and awareness. I feel we should fight for original movies, and I personally think unless it’s an amazing idea why not keep it a one off. Cockney’s vs Vampires I could see, Werewolves I can see as well but that would have to have a bigger budget to really make it work visually. I think Vampires would be cheaper effects and makeup-wise but werewolves would be more expensive, and we are not going to do Aliens!

MJ – As much as I would love to see these characters back on screen again, I can completely concur and get behind the notion of the film being one of a kind. So what’s on tap next?

MH – Well I’m developing a science fiction story in Los Angeles called Capsule, it’s a high concept sci-fi thriller but that’s all I’m saying for now. I’m also developing a fantasy movie with the some of the producers of Harry Potter movies, Heyday films, and I’m developing an occult thriller set in Africa which I love as a setting for a horror movie. Africa hasn’t been really been shown that much on the cinema screen, in a horror/thriller context, and when I was in Africa a few years ago the texture and characters and the ritualistic magic that has been woven there got me thinking. All those things have great potential for a story and there’s something there that is unique and should be experienced on cinema screens.

For more information on Cineplex’s ‘Great Digital Film Festival’ and the theaters participating check out the event page here.

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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Top 5 Reasons To Check Out Reel Asian Film Fest 2012 (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

November 6-11 Toronto

November 16-17th Richmond Hill, Ontario

Toronto’s largest and oldest all Asian film festival, Reel Asian, will play out on screens across Toronto and Richmond Hill over the next week and a half. One of Toronto’s bigger and most recognizable festivals, the 16th edition of Reel Asian brings us over 60 films, feature length and short form, from over 13 countries. Without delving too extensively into the myriad of options available, we will simply highlight the five most intriguing reasons to attend based on what we have seen on the schedule.

Seeking Asian Female

#5 – Seeking Asian Female

One of the most intriguing documentaries playing at this year’s fest, Seeking Asian Female is about a man named Steven, a man in his 60’s with “yellow fever” who is desperate to meet a nice subservient Chinese woman to become his bride, much to the chagrin of Chinese documentarian Debbie Lum. After meeting a 30 year old named Sandy online and marrying her, Steven soon discovers she is not the docile mate he had expected and we follow the aftermath of his decision.

A Fish

#4 – A Fish

A rarity for Reel Asian, A Fish is a 3D film about a man’s search for his lost wife. He hires a private detective who informs him that his wife is living the life of a shaman and communicating with spirits on tiny Jindo Island. Jeon Hyuk goes off in search of his wife and we see all of the fantastical elements of the island in stunning 3D. A Fish will likely be the most visually stimulating film of the fest.

Valley of Saints

#3 – Valley of Saints

After winning multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Valley of Saints makes its Toronto Premiere. Set in the Dal Lake region of Kashmir, Valley of Saints is the story of Gulzar, a young man in search of his future. Working as a boatman, Gulzar becomes involved in the work of scientist Asifa, who is collecting water samples to test. When shocking results come back from the samples, Gulzar must decide what he will do in the wake of the news.

Wolf Children

#2 – Animated Goodies – Tatsumi and Wolf Children

Each film screening separately at the fest, Tatsumi is a documentary on one of the most revered anime creators of all time, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi was one of the first manga masters to start bringing dark adult themes and tones to the medium, transforming it from simply the majority of child aimed and based material that dominated it before. Sure to contain brilliant visual demonstrations of his talent, the film has already screened in Cannes and Rotterdam.

Wolf Children is the new anime from the director of Summer Wars and The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Mamoru Hosoda. The visuals displayed from the film during the Reel Asian press conference were enough to get me on board as this film looks to have the charm of a Princess Mononoke. This coming of age story could be one of the hits of the fest.

Cold Steel

#1 – TAD Co-Presentations – Graceland and Cold Steel

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival will be co-presenting two films this year, also screening separately, at Reel Asian aimed straight at genre fans. Graceland is a taut noir film set in the streets of Manila. Marlon is a family man taking care of his daughter Elvie and frequently visiting his bed-ridden wife in the hospital. But Marlon’s life takes a drastic twist when his daughter is mistaken for that of a local gangster’s and is kidnapped. Marlon must now decide just how far he is willing to go to get her back.

And last but not least is Cold Steel from the long-time editor for John Woo and sometimes action director, David Wu. Being hailed as a Chinese war epic, and using a lot of bone crunching action packed choreographed fight sequences, Cold Steel is the story of a hunter turned sniper torn between the woman he is growing to love and his mentor. In the hands of a true action master like Wu, Cold Steel looks to live up to the hype and not disappoint.

For more information on the fest check out the Festival Website, complete with schedule and detailed info on all the films.

Movie Junkie TO

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Wrong Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Wrong (2012)

Starring Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, William Fichtner, Steve Little and Regan Burns

Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux

The infamous Quentin Dupieux, aka musician Mr Oizo, the director of the movie about a car tire on a killing spree ‘Rubber’, is back with his newest absurdist comedy ‘Wrong’. With Rubber being an extremely divisive film, and Dupieux’s penchant for the bizarre, I knew this would not just be simply a story of a man trying to find his lost dog. I also knew that this was likely to be the most loved and most hated film of this year’s Toronto After Dark lineup.

Dolph Springer (Plotnick) wakes up one morning to realize he has lost the love of his life, his dog, Paul. During his quest to get Paul (and his life) back, Dolph encounters a myriad of bizarre phenomena and people. Firemen apathetically ignore a fire, an alarm clock reads 7:60 AM, a pine-tree becomes a palm-tree, a pizza restaurant nymphomaniac, a jogging-addict neighbor in search of completeness, an opportunistic French-Mexican gardener, and an off-kilter pet detective. And with all this, if Dolph Springer has any chance of getting his dog back he has to listen and follow the lead of a guru of canine psychosis, Master Chang (Fichtner), who sports a mysteriously scarred face and even more mysterious intentions.

To say that Wrong is a sack full of fighting kittens crazy is an understatement. As expected, we pretty much get everything AND the kitchen sink thrown in here. Plotnick does some good work here, essentially playing the straight man for the majority of the film, as his hapless Dolph actually comes off loveable. His deconstruction of the absurdity of a fast food mascot is hilarious. Fichtner is, as always, a fascinating watch as he deftly maneuvers through the intricacies of his character and delivers a smart and engaging performance. Steve Little’s detective also ranks as a highlight. The plot and script are meandering at best, one thing you cannot accuse the film of is being predictable. The film’s plot makes so many twists and turns it is frankly sometimes hard to keep up. The surrealist manner of execution added to the unconventional script and mode of storytelling just adds more intrigue to the proceedings. Wrong is also a decidedly better shot, edited and looking film than Rubber was, showing that Dupieux is growing as a technical filmmaker more with each project.

Definitely not the type of film that will play equally for everyone, it will challenge the best of viewers and will turn off a lot of them, but the film will reward the people that stay with it and give it a chance. Despite its absurdity Wrong has a charm and charisma that are undeniable, and for that Wrong is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Game of Werewolves Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Game of Werewolves (2012)

Starring Gorka Otxoa, Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rose and Luis Zahera

Written and Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

The closing night film from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival was the Spanish horror comedy ‘Lobos de Arga’. The translation literally meaning Wolves of Arga (pronounced r-e-ah) but retitled Game of Werewolves for the international market. Game is throwback film. Wearing its influences like a badge on its chest, Game is clearly inspired by the Universal Monster films of old and more modern masterpieces like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. The only question remaining is does it belong in the company of these classic films?

In the remote countryside of Galicia, Spain, the townspeople of Arga have suffered under a gypsy curse for 100 years. A treacherous woman’s unborn son was cursed to become a werewolf every full moon and ravage the town. Now the curse might finally be lifted when local boy Tomas (Otxoa), returns to the village looking for inspiration to write his new novel. Tomas, unbeknownst to him, is the last of the lineage to the cursed woman and if bitten will lift the curse. So instead of peace and serenity, Tomas ends up running from the locals and accidentally releasing the dreaded beast. While the villagers try to kill the monster, Tomas and his friends attempt to end the curse on their own, with hilarious and dire consequences.

Game of Werewolves is one hell of a fun film. The script is smart and concise with little wasted action. We start realizing right away that there is something else going on here and that Tomas has returned under false pretense. The performances from our lead trio are great. The comedic timing between the three is sharp. The location in the Spanish countryside is gorgeous and the buildings and set design help lend a classic feel to the proceedings, the film almost looks like it was literally ripped out of classic Universal monster pic. Almost all the effects work here in a glorious example of why practical effects work better for werewolves than most of these CG creatures we get today. Clearly inspired by Rick Baker’s work from Werewolf in London, the transformation sequences feature the protruding and changing body mass along with the creaking and crunching of bone that Baker’s work in London is famous for. Director Moreno shows a steady and adept hand behind the camera, crafting a theme park amusement ride of a film that is fun from beginning to end.

A crowd-pleaser until the very end, Game of Werewolves is the type of film that seems destined to become a cult classic and a yearly traditional watch come October. Best seen with a full house of people laughing along with you, Game of Werewolves is a definite recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Dead Sushi Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Dead Sushi (2012)

Starring Rina Takeda, Shigeru Matsuzaki and Kentarô Shimazu

Written by Noboru Iguchi, Makiko Iguchi and Jun Tsugita

Continuing a long tradition of Japanese splatter films at Toronto After Dark – past years have also brought us Tokyo Gore Police, RoboGeisha and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl – we were treated to Noboru Iguchi’s Dead Sushi for the 2012 edition of the festival. One of Iguchi’s first films outside of the Sushi Typhoon label since that company launched, Dead Sushi has been hailed as a fun romp that returns Iguchi back to the form of Machine Girl, the film that helped launch Typhoon in the first place.

Kieko (Takeda) is the daughter of a prestigious sushi chef, whom after being unable to cope with her father’s rigorous and frequently painful instruction, runs away from home. She finds work at a resort as a hostess/waitress only to find herself accidentally embroiled in a delirious revenge plot against a gaggle of corrupt corporate cronies. The corporate retreat you see has been invaded by the transformation of multitudes of Sushi into undead teeth-baring, murderous, man-eating monsters. Hysterically, amidst all the bloody mayhem that ensues, the film is genuinely educational about the preparation, presentation and etiquette of sushi.

Surprisingly Dead Sushi is a step back for Iguchi, a much smaller and contained film than some of his previous efforts. This actually benefits the film greatly, keeping the action from going completely off the rails like his splatter film compatriot Yoshihiro Nishimura’s films so often do. The fact that Sushi Typhoon is not associated with the project results in less budgetary dollars for the film and prompted more creative and economical decisions.

The cast is very funny here, Rina Takeda delivers a very watchable performance as Kieko and Shigeru Matsuzaki as the gardener Sawada steals pretty much every scene he is in. The killer sushi itself is almost all done with practical effects work, with some cheesy CG in parts that only serves to add to the overall goofiness of the film. One scene in particular, a character transformation scene is pretty hilarious. Iguchi even plays off his own past when a character onscreen at one point screams ‘things have reached the point where they literally make no sense’. The homage to Gremlins with a bullied and dejected Gizmo like piece of Egg Sushi is entertaining throughout. The film is set and takes place mainly in the one great looking location of the resort and a few rooms within, which I assume cut down production costs as well, and the settings look very authentic here.

Iguchi’s creativity has been enhanced here by having to stick within budgetary constraints. The film is definitely something that plays better with a lively Toronto After Dark crowd, but is inventive enough that it should hold up on repeat viewings as well. Dead Sushi is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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