The apocalypse starts, what do you do? If you’re Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, you hunker down with your celebrity friend James Franco in his newly designed house and hope to survive. This is the End, based on a short film called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, marks the directorial debut of long-time collaborators Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Jay Baruchel is visiting his friend Seth Rogen in Los Angeles. Having spent most of the day smoking weed and playing computer games, Seth drags Jay to a Hollywood party at James Franco’s house. Partway through the night, the two head to a shop to pick up cigarettes when a series of earthquakes lead them to think that the World is ending. They head back to Franco’s house and along with the host, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride they board up the house and wait to be rescued.
From the opening scene in the airport This is the End sets out a self-deprecating tone as each actor plays an exaggerated version of themselves, or perhaps it’s the version of them that is portrayed in the media. Some of the biggest laughs come at the damning criticism levelled at each character. Whether it’s Seth Rogen playing the same character in every film, or Jonah Hill’s sycophantic ˜Oscar darling’ nobody holds back from bringing themselves down to Earth. The novelty of actors using their own names is annoying and self-congratulatory in films like Love, Honour and Obey here the cast pull no punches, which makes for some wonderful self-referential moments noticeably the self-made Pineapple Express 2 skits.
In many ways This is the End gives the audience the impression that they’re spending some time in the company of real friends and their flaws are as evident as they are disarming. Watching the film is a lot like hanging out with friends and even as the plot begins to go a little bit mad, you’re kept with it through the strength and believability of the relationships within. The cameos are a delight too, with Michael Cera the real standout and Danny McBride is actually given some laughs to boot.
There are some missteps, it would have been nicer to spend a little more time in the early stages, which are comfortably the funniest. The apocalypse itself is handled surprisingly well though, although the reduction in laugh out loud material is disappointing. Still first-time directors Rogen and Goldberg prove more than capable behind the camera and they’ve even instilled some genuine jump-scares that comedy horrors almost always fail to deliver. The future for the pair looks even more promising now than it did 5 years ago with the ghost of The Green Hornet put to bed.
Quite unlike anything Hollywood has produced for decades, This is the End is a surprisingly effective comedy horror. The humour well does eventually run dry and the pacing is at best uneven, but it has more laughs than most comedy films of recent years. Combine this with some truly terrifying jumps, some nicely realised CGI and This is the End might just be the most original apocalypse comedy horror of the year. That is unless Edgar Wright and The World’s End can do better.