Besides being utterly hilarious, This is the End (2013) surmounts the tastelessness of self-indulgent, frivolous potty humour by staging a unique conversation between grotesquery and levity; the consequence of this is a highly affective film, one that bombards the viewer with a pre-subjective excess of sensory stimulation. By treating each mode—the disturbing and the comforting—with an equal temperament, the film manic-depressively confounds the viewer’s emotions. One may find humour in what ought to be discomforting, while finding discomfort in what ought to be humourous; comedic moments are made grotesque, while the grotesque becomes comedy. The audience jumps and covers face when Rogen tries to pee in his own mouth, yet laughs hysterically at the decapitated head spewing blood after a soccer kick.
While the crude humour is hyper intentionalized and unrestricted, it’s not done in vain; the humour is often more cringeworthy than images or sounds of horror, which on the other hand, are treated with a certain lightness and levity. In this sense, the cruder the humour, and the more insensitive the depictions of terror, the more affective and intriguing the film becomes. As one’s adrenaline increases from the shocks, surprises, horror-style subwoofer soundtrack, and rapid camera movements, the jokes—dished at an equally rapid pace—are funded, exacerbated, and become that much more affective. The intensity of the humour moves one from mild guffaws to side-splitting laughter. One’s nervous excitement, fueled primarily by the horror elements, is transformed into jump out of your seat comedy. What a strange experience. One’s nerves underscore the laughter, while one’s laughter underscores the discomfort that leads to nerves. It’s like Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2007) on speed.
With this said, I’d like to compare This is the End with another film from 2013: Spring Breakers (Korine). Each of these films, in their own way, are a hyper actualized image of the contemporary age. They are extreme, hyperbolized, and go right through any critique that shames this generation’s arousal by the absurd, vulgar, or crude. Instead of shying away or tastelessly going about filming the ostensibly reprehensible or disgraceful—jokes about penises and images of scantily clad teens etc.—each film treats these things with dignity, as if to say “yea, we know it’s crude, but it’s fucking great when done right.” Both films, I believe, are a bit ahead of their time, and are forerunners for artistic or at least semi-serious works amongst the relatively “impolite” mainstream cinema that’s burgeoning today.