Be it slashing zombies, the apocalypse or an actual cult, the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy earns cult status simply for its addictive narratives and painfully relatable protagonists. Films aptly named after the British summertime staple, the humble Cornetto, they earned this title as part of a ploy for the cast and crew to get them for free after the completion of the first film in the series, 'Shaun of the Dead'. The plan may have failed but the name stuck – and rightly so, because it symbolises the low budget, authentic British films that remain in the hearts and minds of many across the world today.
The protagonists of this trilogy are different in each film but one thing always remains the same: they are always a couple of ordinary blokes, played excellently each time by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Despite the insane situations their characters endure, they remain tied to the everyday luxuries they enjoyed before, the most prominent being the classic English pub. To say that pubs are important to these three films is an understatement. In ‘Shaun of the Dead’, their local pub The Winchester is perceived to be the only safe haven in a zombie-ridden society, while in ‘Hot Fuzz’, the pub is where the two meet for the first time, and acts as a symbol for Pegg’s character’s inability to let loose. ‘The World’s End’ meanwhile sees the characters attempt to recreate an epic pub crawl from twenty years prior – the film being named after the pub that is the site of the final showdown. This goes hand-in-hand with the Cornetto, which has been proclaimed by the writer and director of the series, Edgar Wright, as a great hangover cure.
Each film blends a particular genre with comedy and parody to achieve unique productions that never fail to entertain. A focus on the theme of friendship makes them all as human as they are funny and creates an emotional attachment between the audience and the characters. The conventional ‘save the world’ formula is interpreted differently in each film, but the constant is that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the ‘heroes’. Another asset to the trilogy is the cast of recurring characters. Familiar names, including Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy, have their own impressive filmographies and fanbases that work to increase the appeal of the ‘Cornetto’ films years down the line.
The first of the three films, ‘Shaun of the Dead’, is a slacker slasher with heart. Unlike many of the zombie genre’s American counterparts, the protagonists are not adept to gun-wielding and kung-fu fighting. In fact, they never fail to be totally lazy. And yet somehow, Shaun and Ed are easy to love for the simple reason that they are everymen – this is what makes the moment they get to be heroes so satisfying, a moment that culminates in the film’s now-iconic fight sequence, excellently choreographed to Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. It is a moment of pride for all the underdogs as Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) work their way through masses of zombies with awkward, yet unbelievable skill.
In quite a contrast, Simon Pegg’s Sergeant Nicholas Angel in ‘Hot Fuzz’ is extremely competent. His brilliance however gets him completely banished from London as his superiors (Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy) fear being shown up. The small village setting puts a spotlight on a different aspect of British life and pokes fun at quiet country living through the gaze of a London police officer. As the odd one out in town, Nicholas becomes an underdog figure, outnumbered and unfamiliar in his new environment. Nick Frost plays his hilarious police partner, Danny, whose inadequacy and endless film references ensure that we still have the lazy-but-relatable figure to root for. ‘Hot Fuzz’ kicks it up a notch as the follow-up to a highly successful film. A more ambitious story and higher budget allowed the ‘Cornetto’ films to assert their place as iconic cultural symbols.
The series culminates with ‘The World’s End’ – quite literally. As the finale of a much-loved collection of films, ‘The World’s End’ is almost a combination of the previous two films, rewarding fans who will enjoy a fresh take on familiar territory. The combination between an ‘end-of-the-world' film and comedy makes this an addictive watch which, like its predecessors, features archetypal villains and unconventional heroes we can’t help but root for.
Repeat viewers are treated to little Easter eggs such as the Cornetto wrappers (each with different flavours), hilarious fence-jumping sequences and, of course, the recurring cast. All these elements are factors as to why these films have such a dedicated following and are culturally iconic. They are all crafted in such a way that they use classic storytelling methods and combine them with parody and humour to create unique experiences that are an absolute pleasure to watch – how’s that for a slice of fried gold?
Edited by Juliette Howard, Film Editor