The World's End (2013)

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike, Piers Brosnan

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan in The World's End

Since 2004, reviews of horror comedies have only had one question to answer: is it as good as Shaun of the Dead? Not: is it better (obviously), but does it live up to standard set by that sharp, witty, warm, satirical, moving, gory, parody tribute, the best rom-zom-com ever made?

Fast forward nine years (and not forgetting Hot Fuzz, which, while perhaps not quite so iconic, was equally brilliant at capturing and deflating the Hollywood buddy cop action movie) and Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back for the final instalment of the Cornetto trilogy: The World's End.

Simon Pegg as Gary King in The World's End

We all know someone like Gary King. Some of us know many Gary Kings. Some of us (yes, you) are Gary King, the black-clad rebel of the anodyne early '90s, who, twenty years on, still just wanna be free to what they wanna do, and get loaded.

Gary, however (played by our generation's poster boy middle age refusnik, Simon Pegg) is the only one of his schoolfriends who's stayed the same: Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) have moved on up and out, while Gary remains stuck in indie kid limbo, driving the streets in a souped up '80s scrapheap dodger, listening to old mixtapes. But this doesn't stop him putting the reluctant gang back together for one final assault on their home town's legendary 'Golden Mile': twelve pints in twelve pubs; reach The World's End or die trying.

Prophetic words, for Newton Haven, it transpires, has been assimilated, Stepford style, by (curiously fragile) obedient robots. Their master plan? To take over the world. Of course. But they reckoned without Gary King...

Okay, let's get to the point: is it as good as Shaun of the Dead?

Yes... and no. Certain tropes are familiar: the pop culture references (particularly poignant if you 're pushing forty and an old Sisters of Mercy fan), the spot-on banter and significance of pub life, the sudden intrusion of the incredible on the yawnsomely mundane, and the need for losers to step up when the going gets tough. But The World's End is also quite a bit darker, and also much more of a character-driven drama – in fact, I almost resented the eruption of killer robots on the scene as an annoying distraction from the brilliantly taut, painfully familiar drama of personalities playing out along the pub crawl, as old tensions bubble to the surface, old wounds begin to fester and hidden secrets start to come to light.

While not a complete From Dusk Till Dawn cut'n'shut, at times it comes perilously close, splicing world weary, kitchen sink drama with Hollywood, Terminator-style sci-fi action (albeit nothing like as menacing – if I were going to take over the world, I'd make sure my minions were a little more robust): Career Girls crossed with The Stepford Wives, Last Orders meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But while '50s and '60s invasion movies like Body Snatchers, Invaders from Mars and The Thing made clear reference to the Cold War Communist threat, the satirical target here is less obvious. Is it our ever-increasing, unquestioning reliance on technology, our endless, self-indulgent wallowing in perma-student youth culture, or the 'Starbucksification' of our high streets, towns and lifestyles, where every pub's an identikit Wetherspoons, every café a Costa or Nero, every individual defined by their consumer choices, trapped by convention, imposed by society or by our own fixed ideas about ourselves? Blimey!

Cheers! The World's End

But a few mixed messages don't stop The World's End's from being a great film: it's never going to set a new genre standard, but it's funny, perceptive, involving, exciting, sharply scripted and well-plotted. And at heart it seems to be saying that, annoying as they may be, the world needs its Gary Kings (which is comforting to know, remembering the mix tapes I salvaged from my first car when it went to the great garage in the sky six months ago...). Although one might argue, as The Walking Dead's Darryl, The Battery boys and, well, all the Mad Max films go to show, the world in the grip of an apocalypse needs them more...

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