Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Dawn of the Brown Bread.

This is very much an ideas film. The title is at once evocative and playful and, strangely enough, quite intelligent. Pairing East End iconography and stereotypes, which is among the most distinct of any region in the UK, with the well established tropes of zombie iconography is an absolutely sound comic premise.

It cleverly assembles a cast of up and coming young talent like Rasmus Hardiker, Michelle Ryan and Harry Treadaway and places them alongside a good value assortment of senior scene-stealers like Alan Ford, Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton and Honor Blackman. Although the zombie outbreak has been done to death there’s still a lot of mileage in it as a means of getting across an allegorical message.

Unfortunately the reading of the outbreak as a metaphor for the escalating viral gentrification of London’s East End is only touched upon. It’s clear the inhabitants of this filmic East London welcome the regeneration of their beloved stomping ground as much as they do the undead overrunning it. It really is just about the title and all that evokes; tasty geezers, wideboys and brassy matriarchs facing off against the shambling undead masses. Although Shaun of the Dead, with its North London setting, might seem an obvious reference point there’s really very little in common.

There are nice innovations though, like the upfront addressing of the reason for the outbreak. There’s no faffing about in letting us know that zombies were sealed away by Charles II during (presumably) The Great Fire of London and uncovered during development work. This is never dwelt upon, or even fully explained, but that’s what makes it so refreshing.

The film’s biggest problem is a leaden script that tries a bit of everything but rarely succeeds. It starts out using well-timed, if overly familiar, short burst of cutaways as a visual shorthand but they're dropped soon after and don't reappear. Within minutes though, it’s already getting lazy and piling stock character upon stock character. While certainly different, character motivations are dull and underexplored with no real sense of progression.

The film is essentially a series of neat visual gags stitched together as a plot by any means necessary. Some of them work (such as a zimmer frame chase scene) but others are so telegraphed that they come lumbering into view even slower than the zombies.

When it comes to the undead, there’s no attempt made to 'characterise' the zombies. Each one is mere cannon fodder; a gore inflected punchline. You’d be hard pushed at the end to think of a single iconic one in the way you might remember, for example, Mary from Shaun of the Dead or the cemetery zombie from Night of the Living Dead.

The film’s most insurmountable problem is that there’s very little in the way of emotional weight. While the splatter might be what gets people watching, it’s the characters and relationships that keep it memorable and there’s scarce meat on the bones here.

Unarguably visually impressive, with an impressive illustration-encompassing opening, there’s fun to be had in seeing stereotypes vs. stereotypes but there’s trouble and strife in store for anyone looking for something with more bite.


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