/Answers: The Best Cinematic End of the World

it comes at night review

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. This week’s edition, tying in with the release of It Comes At Night, asks “What is your favorite cinematic end of the world?” As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team. This week, we are also joined by It Comes at Night writer/director Trey Edward Shults.

If you’d like to share your pick for your favorite cinematic end of the world, please send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find our choices below!

Trey Edward Shults: Children of Men, Take Shelter, and Melancholia

[Excerpted from a larger interview]

Children of Men. Take Shelter, depending on how you want to look at it. Melancholia, [also] depending on how you want to look at that. I also love the video game The Last of Us. I think that video game is incredible. Those would be the four, especially if I’m thinking of any kind of end of the world thing. With Children of Men and The Last of Us, I just love the world they create. I think they’re really smart and unique worlds, but I also care about the characters. But then with Take Shelter and Melancholia, it’s like taking an emotion and applying that to a narrative. With Melancholia, it’s depression. With Take Shelter, it’s [director Jeff Nichols’] paranoia about where the world is going. They distill that emotion and let a narrative come out of that emotion. It’s fascinating to me.

Jack Giroux: 28 Days Later

Waking up from a coma to find your old world gone, overrun by “zombies,” and devoid of your loved ones is as horrifying as it sounds in Danny Boyle’s movie. The virus hasn’t touched the rest of the world, but what happens in England may be the beginning of the end. Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland show how chaotic and painful it would be, too. There’s a captivating sense of madness to the movie, which looks at the world falling from an intimate perspective. 28 Days Later wouldn’t feel so chaotic or emotional as it does if we didn’t care so deeply for the four leads trying to survive. Because they feel real, Boyle’s haunting vision of England becomes more believable and visceral as a result. The end is intensely personal through Boyle’s eyes. His warmth as a storyteller pops up now and then, but the end of the world is mostly pure, unrestrained terror.

Christopher Stipp: The Cabin in the Woods

I had no idea what I was stepping into when I bought a ticket for The Cabin in the Woods. There should be hosannas sung on a daily basis for the fact that this movie even exists at all and it’s a genuine head scratcher for me when I try to figure out out why director Drew Goddard has not directed anything since this movie with the exception of the pilot for The Good Place.  What you have in The Cabin in the Woods is a modern day deconstruction of the horror genre in a way that’s simultaneously complex and intensely satisfying on a superficial level. As far as movies go where the end of the world is all but assured, there is no other ending more satisfying than watching heroes who could have chosen to save the world and simply decided to let it die on principle.

Of all the quality kills in this movie, there are none more satisfying than seeing Bradley “I was in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” Whitford getting shuffled off this mortal coil by having his body eaten by a villainous merman. Even leading up the penultimate moment, we don’t know if there’s some bluffing happening or if we’re looking at a real end of the world scenario. Of course, it ends badly for everyone. However, even though the movie concludes with the destruction of mankind, the message could not have been more pure or sharply written.

Jacob Hall: Melancholia

When you have depression, it doesn’t feel like the world is ending as much as you just can’t wait for the world to end – to go on living would be too much of an ordeal. While many movies have the bad habit of depicting this form of mental illness as just another iteration of sadness, director Lars Von Trier understands that the only way to properly convey they enormous psychological weight of depression is to transform it into a metaphor…or rather, a literal apocalypse. In Melancholia, overwhelming, all-consuming despair takes on the form of a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth. No one will survive. And for Kirstin Dunst’s Justine, the end cannot come soon enough.

Through Von Trier’s typically perverse (and hilarious and sinister and ultimately moving) lens, the end of the world is equally beautiful and terrifying, simultaneously welcome and unwelcome. It’s impossible to take Melancholia literally, and the movie never asks you to do so, but it’s the rare film that takes the actual destruction of every trace of human civilization and boils it down to such a personal level. Our private apocalypses feel an awful lot like the real deal.

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