Horror comedies, when done right, can provide all the visceral thrill of a great scary movie without any of the jump scares. Instead of flying for the ceiling, you start laughing at the huge horror set pieces because they’re intended to be completely absurd. It’s the joy of laughing at things that should scare the pants off you without having to shut off the good taste sensors and mock a terrible film.
This Is the End is horror comedy done right. Jay Baruchel has arrived in LA to spend the weekend with his old friend Seth Rogen. Jay’s not a big fan of the LA lifestyle but Seth insists on taking him to a wild party at James Franco’s new mansion. Everyone who’s anyone is there, downing alcohol and drugs and hiding in the corners for some intimate action. Jay and Seth make a quick run to the convenience store only to be confronted by the apocalypse. Armageddon is at hand and all the good people have been raptured. Naturally, Jay and Seth return to the party to see no one from Hollywood has disappeared in a funky blue light.
Seth Rogen, James Franco, and screenwriter Evan Goldberg have reunited for a spiritual sequel to Pineapple Express. This time, Rogen and Goldberg also take on directorial duties and created a really consistent tone and humor style that elevates This Is the End beyond mere self-parody.
Each major actor in the cast is playing a heightened version of themselves. James Franco and Seth Rogen are total potheads who want everyone to get along. Jay Baruchel is an almost unbearable cynic, reluctant to just go along with the distractions and jokes his fellow survivors use to cope with the end of the world. Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson round out the principal cast hiding out at the Franco mansion, protected only by duct tape and art ripped from the walls to block every door and window.
This Is the End has a very broad sense of humor. It’s filled with jokes about drugs, sex, alcohol, the actors’ careers, and disaster movie cliches. Yet, the comedy net so widely cast lands in just the right place for this story. Your watching a film about a group of people too rotten to be saved from the torture of hell erupting on earth. Why wouldn’t they behave so poorly and be completely oblivious to their actions the whole way through?
The structure of the screenplay is sound. Little bits and pieces are laid out in the first 15 minutes that define the direction of the rest of the film. The cast picks them up one by one, extending them to plot threads that weave together to form a very cohesive horror comedy about the end of the world. There’s even a really nice moral tucked away in the final few scenes that never preaches at the audience or pulls away from the creepy and campy style of the film.
This Is the End succeeds at what it sets out to do. It’s a funny horror film about the end of the world where the actors mock their own public identities for just under two hours. The film looks great and features strong visual effects to set the Hollywood hills on fire and raise demons from the earth’s core. This is not a particularly ambitious film and it doesn’t have much to say about the genre, celebrity, or any grander theme. It’s just well-executed popcorn entertainment.
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