When it was announced that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were making a film featuring their usual troupe playing cartoonish versions of themselves at the end of the world it was clear they intended to leave us laughing as they go. This is the End was a very silly apocalypse, and it’s not the only one.
As you may imagine there aren’t too many choices, with many cinemapocalypses going for the grandest depiction of the ultimate tragedy. Roland Emmerich’s 2012 is a very different catastrophe to Von Trier’s wistful, beautiful Melancholia, the unfairly under seen 4:44 Last Day on Earth deals in a deep-seated routine combined with a brutal sense of helplessness in the final 24 hours of existence. The numerous zombie/infection disaster movies have the world thrown into a mass panic. Either way there aren’t too many belly laughs as we buy the proverbial farm.
John Hillcoat’s adaptation of The Road is an incredibly tough watch, with Viggo Mortensen bringing up his young son who was in utero when the end came, but this is the very definition of post-apocalyptic. It is also one of the most harrowing movies you’ll see. I often find myself watching the first twenty or so minutes of the film for Hillcoat’s off-screen depiction of the end of the world and Mortensen’s weary narration of the slow death of the world. Then I turn it off and sob in a corner for the next few hours. The apocalypse is no joke, most of the time…
We are living through a time when the absolute end of everything can be brought about in vivid detail and on a grand scale and Rogen and Goldberg’s rather silly apocalypse does have its moments of epic destruction but it’s the moments like Michael Cera’s stolen phone and James Franco’s ‘almost-but-not-quite’ uprising which prove that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy we can all have a good chuckle.
Here are five other films which put the ‘Ha’ into ‘OMG, I can’t believe it’s the end of the world! Run! RUN SCREAMING! Yikes! Yaaaa-HA-aaaarrrggggghhhh!.
Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright’s zom-rom-com bought a welcome injection of British reserve to the ubiquitous flesh-chomping which seems to pervade the horror shelves of late. Like Peter Jackson’s early films there is an invention and a strange sense of heightened reality to the apocalypse which makes for some very entertaining viewing.
Whether it’s the smirking apology ‘So sorry, Phillip…’ before Bill Nighy is thwacked into oblivion with a cricket bat or the attempted death by vinyl in the garden George A. Romero’s massive influence has rarely been given such a comical polish.
The Cabin in the Woods
This may not seem an obvious choice but Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s wonderful spin on the horror genre does end in The End (I did warn you about spoilers…).
In creating a workable mythology in which to place virtually all of the other horror films which preceded it there was only one way to finish the film and that’s with the ultimate end of everything courtesy of a few very pissed off demons.
There are few double acts as endearing in the horrorpocalypse genre as that of Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins pen-pushing their way through years of body-counts and terrified teens but their own ends are absolutely hilarious. That the final act is one of dooming the world to oblivion is a daring way to end your film (in particular for the horror genre) as there is, for once, no chance of a sequel.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Lorene Scafaria’s 2012 film must have been a tough pitch. A road-movie, odd couple, love story at the end of the world isn’t the easiest premise to buy but it is the moments of devastating black humour (the board meeting in which titles such as COO are handed out to the lower-level employees who have nothing better to do than turn up to work) among the broader nonsense as the world slips into a strange hysteria.
That the focus of the story is the unexpected friendship between Steve Carrell’s meek loser Dodge and Kiera Knightley’s pragmatic, if slightly loopy, Penny allows the film to play out like a discovery and blossoming of love set against the apocalypse is a shrewd move. Emotionally we engage with their story together knowing that there is nothing at the end of the road but the end. We all suffer our own personal apocalypse at the end of our own lives and this film reminds that time is short, gather rosebuds people.
Stanley Kubrick’s pitch black examination of the absurdity of war leaves many outrageous and hilarious scars on the memory when Slim Pickens rides the bomb all the way to the end of everything. Kubrick and Terry Southern mined Peter George’s novel for the paranoia and bureaucratic labyrinth of the administration of the apocalypse and added a thick streak of black comedy.
When you see the film it makes complete sense that this is perhaps the only way to deal with such a scenario but the performance of Peter Sellers and George C. Scott both walk the fine line between genius and ludicrousness which make the film so compelling even now when mutually assured destruction seems a far less likely end to the world.
No, I’m kidding. It’s terrifying.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
This is, perhaps, a little cheat as the apocalypse glimpsed here is, in fact, the end of absolutely everything. Setting an eatery, and a slightly cheap one too, at the place in space and time when the universe is collapsing in on itself is a work of curious genius.
That Douglas Adams worked out a practically absurd, but ultimately logical, method of payment is testament to the depth of understanding Adams had on the silly nature of mankind. And it pinpoints perfectly that, in the end, are we worth saving?