Sunday, 8 April 2012

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse

Year:  2005
Director:  Steve Bendelack
Screenplay:  Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton
Starring:  Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Michael Sheen, Emily Woof, David Warner
Running Time:  91 minutes
Genre:  Comedy

This is the feature-film spin off of the popular British comedy television series The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002), which starred Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton and was created and written by Gatiss, Shearsmith and Pemberton with Jeremy Dyson.  The show was very much a  dark comedy and  had a very strong horror influence.  It involved the various grotesque inhabitants of the weird little town of Royston Vasey in the north of England. 

In this feature film version, Royston Vasey is threatened with destruction by a bizarre series of natural disasters.  The local vicar, Bernice (Shearsmith), discovers that they exist in a fictional world and that their creators have decided to abandon them, thereby erasing their existence.  Teams have been sent from Royston Vasey to try to contact their creators, however the first team consisting of some of the more bizarre characters, only succeeded in accidentally causing Jeremy Dyson (Sheen) to fall off a cliff.  A second team, consisting of muderous butcher Hilary Briss (Gatiss), outrageously camp German schoolteacher Herr Lipp (Pemberton), and bitter, failed office worker Geoff Tipps (Shearsmith) are brought into the "real" world and ordered to contact the rest of their creators (Gatiss, Shearsmith and Pemberton playing versions of themselves).  They succeed in kidnapping Pemberton and stealing his computer where Hilary and Geoff discover that the League are writing a new historical comedy horror film called The King's Evil, while Herr Lipp poses as Pemberton.  The situation for the Royston Vasey characters soon becomes even more complex as they are forced to deal with the fact that they are little more than one note puns and gags in a fictional universe. 

The film is imaginative and will certainly appeal to fans of the series, although newcomers to the world of Rooyston Vasey may find themselves bewildered by the whole thing.  The film takes in three different worlds:  The world of the Royston Vasey characters, the "real" world of the creators of the show and the world of the King's Evil script (which is very much in the spirit of old style Hammer Horror).  Although the film focuses on two of the lesser known League of Gentlemen characters, most of the best known ones appear in small cameos.  The members of the League do well perfoming a multitude of chracters, including deeply unpleasant verisons of themselves (the one exception is the non-acting Jeremy Dyson who is played by Michael Sheen).  Fans of British comedy will also recognise well-known faces such as Victoria Wood, Simon Pegg and Peter Kay in cameo roles.  The film features a number of fun, retro style special-effects, including a number of stop-motion animated creatures.

A must see for fans of the series, this may be a little too bizarre and macabre for those unfamiliar with the world of the League of Gentlemen, and the humour is very much an acquired taste, but it is inventive and entertaining enough to hold the attention.

Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Mark Gatiss enter a strange world in The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse


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