Zombies of Sw17; Brian Sewell on the Genius of Chinese Artist Zhang Huan and David Sexton Tries Crab Cakes on the Isle of Dogs; Good Horror Contrasts the Mundane with the Terrifying

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Curtis

Marc Price's horror film, made for just [pounds sterling]45 and feted at Cannes, follows in a tradition of movies set in a nightmare London.

And, as he tells Nick Curtis, Tooting Broadway is now firmly on the undead map

IT WAS praised at Cannes as a nobudget marvel and is due on our screens next month.

But Marc Price's British zombie film, Colin, made for just [pounds sterling]45, has done more than set a new benchmark in cheap guerrilla filmmaking.

It's also put Tooting Broadway on the horror-movie map.

The atmospheric, gore-spattered film is told from the point of view of the titular zombie, and was shot on the south London streets near Price's rented house on Himwell Street, SW17.

Indeed, a fair bit of it was filmed in the very living room where I meet the 30- year-old director, in the kitchen where he makes me tea and in his upstairs bedroom.

Like Simon Pegg, whose 2004 "romzom- com" hit Shaun of the Dead was set in Crouch End, Price knows that zombies suit the suburbs.

The shocking effects of an undead plague are more powerfully felt if they take place in the kind of "ordinary" streets and houses where most cinemagoers live.

Horror of all kinds works by contrasting the mundane with the terrifying.

The teenage heroes of Charlie Higson's new series of zombie adventure books, The Enemy - the first of which is published by Penguin this week - hide from the adult undead in the Holloway branch of Waitrose.

The "suburban zombie" principle was arguably established by American director George A Romero, whose pioneering Dawn of the Dead (1968) was set in the Pittsburg 'burbs.

John Landis may have set the action scenes of his 1981 horrorcomedy An American Werewolf in London slap-bang in the middle of the capital, but the more emotionally rich moments involving David Naughton's lycanthrope (and his zombie victims) were shot in Earl's Court, Pimlico and the fringes of Hampstead.

Similarly, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later used the West End and the Isle of Dogs to devastating effect, but moved to terraced houses and deserted pizza parlours in unfashionable parts of London to bring home the cost of a zombie plague on surviving families and bereaved individuals.

Price explains.

"After the White House was annihilated in Independence Day, we got used to seeing globally recognised monuments destroyed and it stopped being shocking," he says.

"It can be far more disturbing to watch horrific events intruding on domestic life.

There's an immediate response from an audience who will recognise a home like their own invaded by an unstoppable, indefatigable force." Colin plays cleverly on this idea, juxtaposing humdrum, everyday details with the extraordinary.

Uninfected humans use household objects like pots and pans to fight off the shambling, flesh-eating undead.

On a housing estate (Rowley Way, off Syon Lane in Isleworth), two hoodies attack Colin and try to steal his trainers.

In a flashback sequence shot in Price's flat, the awful process by which Colin first becomes infected takes place amid the desiderata of twentysomething life: the saggy sofas, the empty coffee cups, the name badges from dead-end jobs.

Of course, there are practical reasons for shooting away from the centre of London, too.

Negotiating filming permits in the West End and City is notoriously hard. …