It’s been over 10 years since Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead first graced cinema screens and started what would be known as the Cornetto Trilogy. Over three films, Wright and Pegg play with the ideas of genre and friendship, to show how three very different people are trapped in their own lives. Plunge into all three to find references to previous work, film references and foreshadowing up the wahoo. And they’re so rich in detail, that I put it to you that you may not have even realised that each one ends on a complete downer. Don’t believe me? Allow me to retort.
Shaun of the Dead
How it ends
After being the only two survivors of a zombie horde that consumes their friends in the Winchester Tavern, Shaun and his girlfriend, Liz, are living a cosy lifestyle. They spend more time together, they have a memorial to their friends and in a distinctly better place relationship-wise than they were at the start of the film. Hurray for true love in the face of adversity.
How it really ends
Shaun, introduced as a massive man-child only second to his friend Ed, has learnt nothing from his experience. Throughout the film, he shows initiative, leadership skills and compassion. A year later, and life is back to normal. Staring death in the face for 24 hours has done nothing to awaken in Shaun the joie de vivre that Liz wanted in him from the beginning. He sleeps in, he spends all weekend in the pub and caps off the evening watching television. Hell, he hasn’t even moved out of the house share he was in.
And what makes it worse, is he’s dragged Liz down with him. Once the only thing spurring him on to make a difference with his life, Liz appears to have sentenced herself to a life of Sunday roasts, football results and possibly some PTSD thrown in for good measure. And just when life couldn’t get any worse for her, we discover that Shaun keeps Ed – A FLESH EATING ZOMBIE – in the garden shed where he can play computer games with him like he’s the chimp from Project Nim. Whilst her boyfriend idles his life away in a second childhood, Liz takes on the form of the mother figure, chastising Shaun for his desire to play with his friends but loving him unconditionally all the same. Poor Liz.
How it Ends
After a blistering shootout and, let us not forget, massive explosion, Constable Nicholas Angel has saved the village of Sandford from Inspector Frank Butterman and his murderous Neighbourhood Watch Association. Now in charge of the new police department, Angel and his partner Danny keep a watchful eye of the village’s citizens.
How it really ends
Sandford has merely swapped one fascist regime for another. Throughout the film Angel is shown to be an overbearing stickler for the law, despite it costing him the respect of the entire Metropolitan police department. In Sandford, he now has his own little empire from where the forces of the outside world can no longer stop him doing a good job. Hell, they don’t even have any phone reception. Butterman may have been covert in his dictatorship, but in his overtly Stalin-esque uniform and ultra-modern police car Angel proves to be the bigger bastard by flaunting his power.
Like Shaun with Liz, Angel has taken Butterman’s son, Danny, under his wing. Danny, who was shown to overlook his old man’s megalomaniac tendencies, now looks up to Angel as a new father figure. And as they overzealously speed off to take care of some ‘hippy types near the bins’ – because god forbid there is any trace of left-wing politics in Sandford – Danny is none the wiser, for Angel has offered him a world that reflects the excitement of the action movies he so desperately craves. Poor Danny.
The World’s End
How it ends
After getting all Star Trek V with a race of aliens that have held their hometown hostage for decades, whilst simultaneously advancing the human race, Gary King condemns the whole planet to a new Dark Age. And yet, from this technological devolution, hope reigns supreme! Gary’s friends find inner peace and are, ultimately, happier without the trappings of a modern life. Meanwhile, Gary has recognised his alcoholism and wanders the land like a goth Mad Max with android clones of his old friends. Mankind will prevail. Hurray for mankind!
How it really ends
Let’s go over that again: Gary King, because he wanted a pint, plunged the world into darkness. His selfishness wiped centuries of technological advancement off the planet. And whilst it’s great that Gary’s mates have adapted to their new lifestyles, what about the rest of the world? Let’s be real here, what about the people who actually needed technology to live? It’s all very well saying you’re living a self-sufficient lifestyle with the gorgeous Rosamund Pike, but that’s not going to help people strapped to dialysis machines, is it?
And as for Gary… Well, good for him. He’s kicked the booze, but he’s also ostracised himself from his friends, finding himself more comfortable when he’s hanging around the teenage versions of them. It doesn’t matter if they’re robot clones, they hang on to his every word in a way his grown up friends no longer did. He’s even shaved off his goatee, discarding it as a symbol of an adulthood that he never chose to be a part of. And, with all this in mind, you know that he will never see his real friends ever again for fear they remind him of what he should be doing, instead of what he is doing – starting bar fights with mutants. Poor Gary.