What would you do if the world was going to end? I still remember that night in April 2011 when Harold Camping “predicted” the rapture. I was invited last minute by some friends to a zombie birthday party for a girl we knew. We spent a whole hour applying makeup and when we got there, we were the only ones who lived up the theme. Everyone else was normal and did drugs. That party was kind of like This Is the End, only in the movie, the end does happen.
Inspired by a short film, This Is The End sends some of Hollywood’s comedy heavyweights to hell and the rest to fend for themselves. While not a mockumentary, the film has its stars playing themselves (some characteristics exaggerated) as they try to survive demons, devils, and fellow man turned evil during the apocalypse.
The film centers around Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, the skinny kid in She’s Out Of My League. When Seth picks up Jay, he drags him to James Franco’s party chock full of Hollywood stars, and by stars I mean hey I know that guy. Cameos abound with Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, and even Rihanna having fun at James Franco’s extravagant Los Angeles mansion. There are plenty more, but Michael Cera tops everyone and finally sheds his awkward white guy persona for a few brilliant minutes.
Soon enough, the apocalypse starts. The initial rapture sends a select few — the good and pure of heart — up into the sky. Is it an alien abduction? A government conspiracy? As Jay and Seth struggle to find out, they return to James Franco’s party, everyone unaware of the chaos outside. Hilarious, no one in Hollywood is pure of heart. And then, quite literally, hell breaks loose. The party is over, a burning Los Angeles signaling the end of a degenerate, modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
The film eventually finds its core cast of Seth, Jay, Danny McBride, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill trapped inside Franco’s lavish residence. Despite the worldwide apocalypse, the film keeps much of its action inside Franco’s house. Claustrophobia is avoided hilariously and perfectly via montages, side adventures, video diaries, and miscellaneous shenanigans that illustrate the world’s end scenario perfectly without seeming to follow convention (and blowing away the budget) on toppled over cars and deserted streets. It’s like a bottle episode to a sitcom, only it’s the finale in every sense of the word.
It would be easy to get lost in the idea of these big comedic stars coming together and thrust into a fun scenario. The self-referencing humor is an element here, not a gimmick. It would not be enough if Seth et al. were friends who happen to be caught in the apocalypse. A film like The Expendables can get away with it, Stallone doesn’t need to be Stallone to kill bad guys. Craig Robinson needs to be Craig Robinson if he will wear a t-shirt that says “Take Your Panties Off.” The extra step of fictionalized selves is a fountain source of humor throughout the film, each star taking cheap pot shots at each other for black spots in their careers. “Where was that in Green Hornet?” Danny jabs at Rogen and his acting.
An unexpected surprise in the film is actually in the apocalypse itself. The demons that chase after our bumbling heroes have leapt right off a heavy metal album. These monsters, for the most part at least, are of an intelligent, terrifying design that evoke fear and awe. The sheer scale of them makes the apocalyptic scenario not just believable within the mise-en-scene, but epic too.
Further positives in this particular film’s apocalypse are the rules of the end established. Every film apocalypse has its rules: In Children Of Men, no one is fertile. In 28 Days Later, you can contract the virus via germs and in that and I Am Legend the monsters have hyper human abilities. In This Is The End a good soul will bring you to paradise, just don’t fuck it up. It’s easy to understand but refreshing, and a wholly different take of apocalyptic scenarios rarely seen in this generation of cinema. I must applaud the filmmakers for making a biblical end of the world without resorting to religion. Almost nothing is said about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, nothing. I dare say the film has a completely agnostic perspective on death, the afterlife, and what you can do on your precious time on Earth. There is a heaven, there is a hell, but there is no further divine presence, not even in the form of Morgan Freeman.
There are touching moments concerning friendship in the face of survival that is quite heavy enough to make the movie parade intelligence and heart, but cheesy enough that it’s almost a parody of such cliches. If you’re sucked in enough, you’ll have tears of laughter and emotion at the climax.
In this current climate of summer movies where super heroes take on super villains, it’s fun to see self-centered jokesters take on arguably the most powerful villains ever in all of fiction. I like to imagine the film plays up how anyone’s scenario would if they faced the apocalypse with their own friends. If you’re with the right people, it’d be fucking hilarious.