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It’s pretty clear that Edgar Wright and his sometime co-writer/star Simon Pegg are movie junkies. Their series Spaced was all about allusions to their TV and film favorites, while the first two installments of the “Cornetto trilogy,” Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were tributes to zombie and action flicks, respectively. With The World’s End, the homage and referencing continues. Even though the message of the movie is to move forward not backward, and even though it’s apparently a veiled criticism of Hollywood’s own nostalgic impulses, it’s okay for a movie this clever to have its influences and predecessors as long as the acknowledgment is through nods to the past works rather than a recycling or cloning of them.

One key difference between what Wright does and what the remake/reboot machine does is he provides a gateway to older movies and the machine creates a substitution, a replacement. As a true movie lover, Wright is known for hosting programs of beloved classics and cult classics, usually in hopes of introducing his fans to stuff they’ve never seen. He also likes to name other films that have informed his work and are worth checking out either prior to or after seeing his movies. The following list is not all selections that he has credited nor that he would necessarily endorse. It’s a combination of some of his picks (found mentioned elsewhere) and some of my own, some obvious and some not, some great and some just worth a look for comparison sake.

Of course, the first two for anyone getting their first taste of Cornetto trilogy deliciousness from The World’s End are Shaun and Fuzz. But that’s a given, right?

Minor SPOILERS if you haven’t seen The World’s End, though very minor and minimal. 

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Two of the most common comparisons TWE has received are to the British TV series Doctor Who and to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The two sort of fit together if you recall that Adams wrote for various incarnations of DW, but most of the second act of TWE does seem straight out of the current run of the time traveling, alien-battling character (an episode of which had Pegg appear as a bad guy). It’s not really until the climax that Wright’s film gets into the sort of hilariously expository conflict Adams was best at. On top of that, TWE features (as did the other two Cornetto movies) actor Martin Freeman, who starred as Arthur Dent in the excusably imperfect 2005 Disney adaptation of THHGTTG from Hammer & Tongs (aka Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith). The voice of “The Network” at the end is fellow consistent Cornetto player Bill Nighy, who plays a similarly godly figure called Slartibartfast in THHGTTG. Meanwhile, Jennings and Goldsmith have in turn been extras in Wright’s films.

Available on Amazon Streaming

The Quatermass Xperiment

One of the inspirations Wright names in a recent interview with Movies.com, the 1955 Hammer Films adaptation of a BBC television serial (with the slightly different title of The Quatermass Experiment) is one of those classics he hopes TWE can be a gateway to. Retitled The Creeping Unknown in the U.S., The Quatermass Xperiment is a sci-fi horror tale of a space mission gone bad. Only one of three astronauts aboard the first manned rocket returns to Earth, and he’s not even quite himself. He now has the power to absorb other living creatures and take on its properties, killing them in the process. Quatermass is the name of the scientist behind the rocket, and he would return as the central figure of sequels Quatermass 2 (aka Enemy From Space) and Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth), which deal more with alien infiltration and influence, not unlike that found in TWE.

Village of the Damned

Wright’s other directly named inspiration is this 1960 sci-fi horror film based on John Wyndham‘s novel “The Midwich Cuckoos.” Clearly the director has a thing for villages in which everything turns out to be awry, as we’ve seen such settings in Hot Fuzz and now TWE. But Wright is a comedic filmmaker and likely won’t ever make something as creepy as Village of the Damned, with its evil blond children born of mysterious circumstances. One connection between VOTD and TWE is that in both films there’s mention of other invasions besides that of the village central of their respective plots. The villains in both also have glowing eyes, although those in TWE are far more luminous.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Dead & Buried

Another movie about a small town with a secret of supernatural infiltration, this 1981 cult classic, which was banned on video in the UK during Wright’s youth, deals with a New England community populated by zombies. The lack of their kindness to outsiders (okay, that’s an understatement since visiting tourists are murdered) is relative to how the five protagonists of TWE are eventually treated, although for them it’s not until they know the secret that their lives are threatened. This horror flick was part of a recent series at L.A.’s New Beverly Cinema curated by Wright himself and called “The World’s End is Night.”

Available on iTunes

It’s Always Fair Weather

Another film programmed by Wright for his New Beverly series, this musical directed by Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly stars Kelly, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd as WWII pals who reunite after ten years for a night of drinking only to find they’ve now got little in common. That’s very similar to the basic premise of TWE before the supernatural stuff kicks in. And now you may be wishing Wright had included a musical number or at least a little bit of roller skate tap dancing.

Available on iTunes

The Watch

In retrospect, the sci-fi comedy formerly known as The Neighborhood Watch seems like a very pale version of TWE. You’ve got a handful of men who discover their town has been infiltrated by aliens disguised as humans and a corporate brand used to represent a larger theme. Wright uses Starbucks by name only, while The Watch prominently places Costco front and center, which led to much critical dismissal of its significance. The relevance, that the store is akin to how Ben Stiller’s character sees his whole town, full of diversity in one small place, is indeed sort of cloudy but also just not directly explained like the Starbucking of TWE. Anyway, The Watch is also a pretty funny movie, particularly whenever the great Richard Ayoade is on screen, and better viewed without thinking about any additional substance it may have. Give it a shot if you’ve so far been persuaded not to.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Attack the Block

Wright was a producer on this movie, which features Cornetto trilogy co-star Nick Frost and which was written and directed by Joe Cornish, their friend and sometime collaborator (he is co-writing the upcoming Ant-Man movie with Wright). A hit on the festival circuit and in its native UK that barely caught notice in its American theatrical release, the sci-fi horror comedy also involves the circumstances of an alien invasion in a very small setting, here an urban housing project. Working with nostalgia, as well, Attack the Block is a tribute to teen-centric monster movies of the 1980s. And in spite of its throwback familiarity it’s one of the freshest movies in years, and in some ways it’s more enjoyable than TWE.

Available on Amazon Streaming

Happy-Go-Lucky

You’ve no doubt seen Eddie Marsan in any number of his mainstream roles, including those in the recent Sherlock Holmes movies, V for Vendetta, Mission: Impossible III, Snow White and the Huntsman (alongside TWE’s Nick Frost as one of the dwarves) and now the TV series Ray Donovan. But you may have missed Mike Leigh‘s Happy-Go-Lucky, for which he should have received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He plays one of his sad little man characters, slightly like the one he plays in TWE, only here he’s also very angry and prejudiced and violent. He’s a perfectly contrasting foil for Sally Hawkins’ titularly spirited Poppy. And as a driving instructor, his work is in cars, just like in TWE. While this film isn’t directly an influence on Wright’s film, in an interview with The Week he says it’s “like a Mike Leigh film under the guise of an alien invasion film…More people should see Mike Leigh’s films, so this is our roundabout way of doing it. We even brought Eddie Marsan, who’s kind of a Mike Leigh ringer.”

Available on Netflix Streaming

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980

Marsan is also in this film from James Marsh, but the main character is played by his TWE pal Paddy Considine (who later directed Marsan in Tyrannosaur). Selecting this is a bit of a cheat since it’s the second installment in another trio of films, but unlike the Cornett trilogy the Red Riding films fit together narratively and should be seen in order. So, first you will have to watch Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, which also features Marsan but not Considine, then after this one finish with the concluding Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983, in which neither of the two actors appears. The series is also about an English community affected by something horrible, but it’s not supernatural and it’s not played for comedy. In fact, it’s based on true events. Considine gives arguably his best performance in 1980, in a dramatic role very far from his character in TWE.

Available on Amazon Streaming

The Wild Angels

Wright’s film may also be a gateway to certain music selections on TWE’s soundtrack, particularly the nearly forgotten hit “Loaded” by Primal Scream. The song opens the movie, kicking things off with the track’s sampling of dialogue from this Roger Corman biker exploitation movie from 1966. Thanks to Pegg’s character continually quoting lyrics from “Loaded” throughout the movie, lyrics inspired by that dialogue, the philosophy of Peter Fonda’s gang of wanting to free to do what they want to do and get loaded and have a good time” has likely stuck in your brain. In addition to downloading “Loaded” on iTunes, you may as well go back to the very source with a viewing of this precursor to its more famous sibling, Easy Rider.

Available on Vudu Streaming

 


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