The Morning After, 11:37:I awoke sprawled naked on the mattress, the bedroom light still harshly on. My mother was ringing me from Spain. One finger on either hand had been painted with glittery nail polish. My mouth tasted of Jaiger bombs and vodka lemonades.
The world hadn't ended. My head disagreed.
The Morning Before, 10:45:Fellow Flickering Myth co-editor Luke Owen and I had decided to stage a pub crawl for The World's End's opening weekend. 12 pints in 12 pubs, working our way from the bottom of Camden High Street to conclude in that most fateful of watering holes, The World's End. A crack team of Flickering Myth writers were on board, along with a bunch of my friends from school. We saw the movie at 10.45 in Wood Green's Cineworld, the first Saturday screening in London, to optimize drinking time...
The Lyttleton Arms:The first pub. We began as seven. Myself, Luke, David Bishop, and four of my friends from school. We approached the bar with a marathon in minds. Nobody be a hero. "Seven pints of your weakest beer, please."
"What was everyone's favourite line?" someone excitedly asked about the film we'd just seen. "Smashy smashy egg man," was the general consensus, although the most celebrated moment was Andrew Knightley's (Nick Frost) punch through a glass door.
"Drink it or ditch it!" came the cry. David didn't look too happy, but peer pressure won out.
While Graham thrashed me at pool, we talked favourite characters. Gary King (Simon Pegg) is an interesting protagonist - both annoying and unlikeable. There's a reason he and his best friend, the aptly named and aforementioned Andrew Knightley, haven't spoken for 15 years. He lies, appears to be a junkie and is incredibly selfish. Gary King, that is. Graham's alright actually.
Yet somehow he's strangely endearing (both Gary and Graham). He never let go of the glory days of his youth. He still wears the same goth jacket and plays the mixtape Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) made for him all those years ago. There's a bit of Gary in all of us, that painful longing for care-free, after-school, underage drinking. And it's a trait that has consumed him entire.
"Drink it or ditch it!" David held us up this time.
"Did you work out any of the meanings of the movie's pubs?" Luke asked me between bites (of which he's since gone onto write a wonderful analysis). The World's End, you see, is quite literally signposted, with each pub name reflecting the events that happen within it. The First Post was their starting point, The Old Familiar had the return of a former flame, and so on. If we were following the same route as King and Company, our Cobden Arms would be their The Famous Cock.
Rohan Morbey walked through the door.
Yes, Rohan. He of that Dredd 3D review. We knew of him from podcasts recorded together and the impressive amount of reviews he writes. He's a tough man to please, and the room was nervous. "A little shorter than I expected," I whispered to Luke. Much like his idol Tom Cruise. But his smile was just as large and disarming. For a man who dished out such venom against any film that falls short of his admirably high standards, he was a cheery chap.
"Drink it or ditch it!"
Corporate takeovers is a theme that runs throughout the film - not only of the increasingly generic pubs our heroes visit, but of the fictional town of Newton Haven itself.
Luke's theories continued. "Did you see all the clues in the opening montage?" "Clues?" I answered, my head now feeling a bit floaty. "Yeah, it's one of Edgar Wright's tropes. He'll tell you everything that's going to happen in the film in its first few moments." I excitedly supplied another word. "Foreshadowing!"
It's true of both The World's End and Shaun of the Dead. Their entire plots are encased within a brief conversation at the start of each film. For The World's End, it is King's retelling of his failed pub crawl 20 years ago. The World's End is very intricately plotted.
My best friend from University, Dan White, turned up. "Drink it or ditch it!"
The beer was already making me emotional. "Drink it or ditch it!"
"You know...you know what I didn't like about it actually? The fight scenes. I thought the fight scenes went on too long."
"But the fight scenes! They went on too long!"
Luke still disagreed, unmoved by my new argument.
"The music didn't feel right for..." I looked at my watch mid-sentence. The strict 45 minutes per pub was in danger of being breached. "Drink it or DITCH IT."
The Crown and Goose:We took over one half of the bar. It was the smallest one so far, and we were becoming increasingly unruly.
"...didn't feel right for the fight scenes. It needed a proper score." The fight scenes in The World's End are directed with all of Edgar Wright's kinetic flair, yet there's something quite pedestrian about them. Luke still disagreed.
The rest of the film's soundtrack, however, is enormously nostalgic. The songs are almost entirely from the 1990s, bar The Doors' jaunty Alabama Bar.
Speaking of music(als), it was in The Crown and Goose where Rohan and I finally put our disagreements over Les Miserables (one of 2013's best films) behind us. Veri painted our nails with a glitter/concrete concoction to cement this new bond. Blood Brothers got nothing on us.
"DRINK it or Ditchit."
Earl of Camden:Was a magnificent pub with a tall ceiling and large tables, the perfect foil to the cramped Crown. Jamie tried to tear the buttons from my shirt as the pseudo-homosexual banter common amongst 'lads' was bubbling over. The despondency continued...
Perhaps The World's End wasn't as funny as we thought it was. Maybe we had been so fueled by nostalgia and context that our perception was through rose-tinted glasses. Or, more appropriately, beer goggles.
Comparisons to the Cornetto trilogy's other movies started to be drawn. It was no Shaun of the Dead. Nothing was. That was debut album perfection. But how did it rank alongside Hot Fuzz?
"DRINK OR ditch."
"Maybe The World's End wasn't as funny as Hot Fuzz," I argued. "But it's more heartfelt. The narrative and central heartache in the story is alarmingly easy to relate to, and--"
My drunken movie analysis was distracted by Rohan returning from the bar.
"What I think your problem is, Rohan," I slurred, "is that you've got specific parameters for what a great film is - and that's long, slow, Western-style stuff. Character-based pieces. Great central performances. Involving either Tom Cruise or Steven Spielberg."
"Which is what makes a great film," he smiled wisely in reply.
Taken aback by his honesty, I continued: "But having any sort of parameters means you're going in with a certain mindset. You've got to give yourself to the movie. Isn't that better? Working with the film to make it the best it can possibly be?" I was veering off into ill thought-out theories of mutual coercion spectatorship. "Having said that, There Will Be Blood is a f*cking great film."
And so the phrase was born: "PTA takes me from six to midnight."
"Drink it up, driiiiiiiink it up - OR DTICH IT!"
We'd lost Mario, our first crawler, during the refuel. He only had three more pubs till retirement. Just like the teenage incarnations of The World's End's protagonists, he had fallen short of the ultimate goal. He'd been "benched," a phrase from the film used when Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) was left on a park bench after drinking too much.
Flickering Myth writer Scott Davis arrived! It was his birthday weekend, and in a sudden burst of adoration for Hot Fuzz, Luke reenacted Point Break on the dirty street outside for him.
Hot Fuzz vs The World's End was interrupted by Scott showing us his phone. It had a combined Batman/Superman logo on its screen. The Man of Steel sequel had just been announced at ComicCon. We thought we heard a sound, a scream, a shattering of a soul. Must be fellow Flickering Myth writer Martin Deer, I thought, reacting to the news many miles away in Essex.
The World's End:
Posters for the movie were strewn on every wall. We were ecstatic. 12 pints in 12 pubs. I may have cheated with a few half pints (and TCs*), but still, the elation was overwhelming. Luke certainly hadn't gone for half measures. He was passed out on a table outside.
There's a wonderful Canadian movie called Last Night, about the end of the world. You're never told why the Apocalypse is nigh; you simply see how people react differently. Some go on dates, others loot like crazy. One family pretended it was Christmas Day, despite it being mid-July. I'd always liked that. Surrounded by your family, by loved ones. Getting presents. If doomsday really was upon us, I'd always thought that's how I'd go out.
But then as I looked around The World's End pub in a shitfaced haze, at my school friends drunkenly singing Katy Perry, at the table propping Luke up, at the occasional football chant breaking out, I thought: you know what, this wouldn't be a bad way either.
Thanks for the laughs, Pegg, Frost and Wright.