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What to Expect from the Apocalypse Comedy ‘How it Ends’

Who knew the end of the world could be so upbeat?
How It Ends movie
By  · Published on July 9th, 2021

Welcome to Great Expectations, a recurring series in which we break down the most essential information about an upcoming movie or show. In this edition, we look at what you can expect from (and where you can watch), the COVID-inspired apocalypse movie How It Ends.

For some people, the pandemic has been a time of serious creative block and near-catastrophic lethargy. For others, it’s been a period of inspiration. Married couple and creative power-duo Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, who have been working together since 2009 and had already partnered on six feature films and two shorts pre-COVID (including Lola Versus and Band Aid), are among the lucky ones in that second group.

Two years after their last creative team-up (the 2019 TV pilot Awokened), the pair are back with their latest movie, a quirky comedy called How It Ends, which is fittingly about the end of the world. Written and shot by Wein and Lister-Jones during the pandemic, the feature made its debut at Sundance earlier this year (see our review) and then captivated crowds at South by Southwest a couple of months later. Now, it’s everyone else’s turn to watch it.

Here’s everything you need to know about the movie’s imminent release.

How It Ends Release Date (and Where to Watch)

In May, American International Pictures snagged distribution rights for the movie How it Ends. It is now slated to be released simultaneously in theaters courtesy of United Artists and on VOD via MGM on July 20th.

How It Ends Cast

In addition to being one-half of the pair that wrote, directed, and produced the movie, Zoe Lister-Jones also stars as Liza, the protagonist of How It Ends. Mare of Easttown’s Cailee Spaeny, whom Lister-Jones previously directed in last year’s The Craft: Legacy, plays Liza’s younger self, who accompanies her on her heartfelt journey through the apocalypse.

But there are many more names in the cast. When it comes to an abundance of celebrity cameos, How It Ends joins the ranks with such movies as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and This Is the End (2013). The film’s guest appearances include Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Colin Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Sharon Van Etten, Helen Hunt, Whitney Cummings, Charlie Day, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Logan Marshall-Green, Pauly Shore, Paul Sheer, and Glenn Howerton. Phew. 

How It Ends Plot

When you get word of a new end-of-the-world movie, you might expect to see something dark and thrilling like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) or The Road (2009), but How It Ends has a different take on what the apocalypse looks like.

The movie follows Liza, accompanied by her imaginary friend: her teen self. The two are on their way to a last-day-on-earth party after receiving unfortunate intel that a meteor is on its way to decimate the planet. But the pilgrimage to her final rager doesn’t go as planned, and Liza starts to realize what is really important to her in the face of death. So, she makes it her life’s final mission to make amends with friends and family she’s had falling outs with.

How It Ends Movie Trailer

At the beginning of the movie trailer for How It Ends, a character played by Fred Armisen pretends to impale himself on a spiked fence. And that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the movie’s upbeat, quirky tone. Check out the trailer below. (Bonus points if you can spot more than five celebrity cameos.)

How did COVID Inspire the Movie How It Ends?

If you’ve been looking for a COVID-19 silver lining, here it is: the movie How It Ends most likely wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic. Lister-Jones told the Daily News:

“In quarantine especially, we were all facing our most vulnerable selves, or our younger selves. So I started to do more research into inner-child work with my therapist. Daryl was doing some of that, too. Cailee was doing that, too. We were all trying to figure out how to quell these deep anxieties and fears that we were feeling at this time, and a lot of that had something to do with how we talk to the younger person inside of us. So that spawned the idea. And because of the existential nature of the movie, we liked the idea of there being a metaphysical representation of Younger Self that we could play with, in the dialogue.”

So, if you’re all about apocalypse movies, or you’re trying to get more in touch with your inner child, or you’re simply looking for some humor to alleviate the tumult of the past year and a half, mark your calendar and get ready to see How It Ends on July 20th.

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Aurora Amidon spends her days running the Great Expectations column and trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the best movies of all time. Read her mostly embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon.