I have made no bones about my hot ‘n’ heavy man-love for Edgar Wright’s Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, also known as his Cornetto Trilogy, also known as his three movies starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I suppose I should say that I love the first two, the zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead and the cop-genre spoof Hot Fuzz. But I also suppose I should say that even though I haven’t seen it yet (it opens tomorrow), I also love their new collaboration, The World’s End. This is because, by all accounts, it continues the golden streak of their earlier work.
They’re transcendant parodies
I write this blog for writers and for lovers of written work, so you have probably guessed that if I love this trilogy, then there must be some ace storytelling going on, innit? There is, indeed. But the writing here is so fine that these two ostensible parodies—one about zombie movies and the other about buddy-cop movies, for goodness’ sake—don’t just stand as clever satires of their prospective target genres. No, both of these films (and I bet you a hundred quid right now that The World’s End will be the same) also transcend their parodic status and become fine examples of the very genre they’re joking about!
Shaun of the Dead is a scary zombie flick
I don’t claim that Shaun of the Dead is as scary a horror movie as its namesake Dawn of the Dead, but its scenes of zombie mayhem and the general feeling of dread about the Zombopcalypse are as effective as almost every other movie about the undead. Its laughs are well earned, but we also laugh in Shaun because it is so tense. Unlike in, say, Zombieland, a funny zombie movie in its own right but which plays it all way too safely, any character—hell, every character—in Shaun of the Dead can die or become undead. I assume you’re familiar with the plot of the movie, but if not, SPOILER ALERT. (And also GO WATCH THIS MOVIE, DAMN YOU alert.)
Shaun’s stepfather is bitten and turns, but not before he tells his stepson that he is proud of him. Shaun’s beloved mother (who’s now kicking ass and taking names on Downton Abbey, by the way) is bitten and he has to kill her by her request before she turns. And his best friend, the raison d’etre of the entire story is bitten and becomes a zombie. There are real (for a zombie movie, anyway) and horrifying consequences to the suspenseful situations in the film. It is an effective zombie flick.
Hot Fuzz is an entertaining buddy-cop movie
After Shaun, Edgar and the boys made Hot Fuzz, which is a sequel to the zombie movie in the way that Martin Scorcese or Woody Allen make sequels to their own films: Many of the same actors, the same atmosphere, the same artistic intent. But Hot Fuzz tells the story of an overeager policeman (Pegg) who is drummed out of London and sent to the sticks, where he teams up with a hopeless officer-by-nepotism (Frost). The movie is extremely funny, but the story itself hits all the beats of a buddy-cop story, which a viewer might not notice because every beat is also a parodic comment.
Think about it: The good cop run out of town (or demoted, or reassigned) by less-ethical cops? Buddy-cop movies always have this, and so does Hot Fuzz, but they make his goodness and detective abilities so strong they become funny. The new partner for which the good cop has disdain? Check, but here the new partner is such a moron and a slob that it is (intentionally) hilarious. The same goes for the early suspicion but later absolution but later again the suspicion was correct! (I’m looking at you, Timothy Dalton.) The big set piece at the end? Again, they both have it, but only Edgar Wright would have a vicar wielding machine guns and a WWII submarine mind taking out the police station. It works as a buddy-cop film because it hits all the marks in refreshing ways, but it also works as a comedy hits the points in the most reductio ad absurdum way possible. Also, in Cate Blanchett obscured behind a Hazmat suit, it has the most perverse anti-cameo ever.
Yep, that’s Cate under all that.
The World’s End is The Return of the Secaucus Seven meets Village of the Damned
And the new movie looks like it follows the tradition of movies like The Big Chill and That Championship Season. It has a gang of former chums coming together for a last shot at the glory that has eluded them during the intervening years. Simon Pegg’s character is the only one who sees the old days as valuable, but the others, who have “sold out” and become responsible citizens, are all to glad to have those days be over. However, through the events of the story, they work together and form a stronger bond than they ever did before. It’s going to be a good Return of the Secaucus Seven–type movie, and it’s also going to be a hilarious comedy—because the test of their inner and outer strength, as individuals and as a team, is focused on averting the Apocalypse brought on by deadly robots. It’s absurd, and it’s perfect.
Off to the pub, then, gents?
Now that the Cornetto Trilogy is coming to an end, we can fully appreciate over its three stories the brilliant storytelling techniques it uses to make each of these a cult classic you can watch over and over again. Like a mum serving vegetables covered in butter, so does Edgar Wright make movies—a zombie movie, a buddy-cop movie, and a reunion movie—that some wouldn’t bother to see if it weren’t made delicious with his keen eye for humor and absurdity.
There will be a Part II on Sunday, after I have seen The World’s End.