Cult Movie: The League Of Gentlemen Apocalypse is worth checking out

The League of Gentlemen – Reece Sheersmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson
Ralph McLean

A LITTLE little frisson of excitement hung over the McLean residence this week as that bleak and beautiful dark black comedy masterclass The League Of Gentlemen returned to TV for a brief run of anniversary specials.

It was good to have the gang back. As most mainstream TV comedy wallows in the lowest common denominator world of Mrs Brown's Boys and suchlike, it was nice to get a taste of “the good stuff”, as the League's malevolent butcher Hilary Briss might say.

It may have been gone from our screens for 15 years but there's something about that whole society rattling toward hell in a handcart vibe and that “Local shop for local people” little Englander ethos that is bang on the money in post-Brexit Britain.

It was also a timely reminder of just how good the work of Reece Sheersmith, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Jeremy Dyson really is. It was fun, in a scary kind of way, to revisit those grim, grotesque and gloriously desperate inhabitants of that most doomed of north-of-England towns, Royston Vasey, and barely had the TV return finished than I found myself thinking back fondly to the team's single foray on to the big screen.

The League Of Gentlemen Apocalypse arrived at the cinema in 2005. To say it met with indifference from the public might be understating things somewhat – I remember going to a screening in which my wife Kerry and I outnumbered the guy taking tickets on the door – but it remains a wildly inventive film that deserves a much better cult reputation than it currently has.

Over 90 speedy minutes director Steve Bendelack oversees a half crazed, postmodern and properly meta adventure that is both hugely enjoyable and undeniably self-indulgent. Fans will love it and first-timers will be perplexed.

The end is apparently coming for Royston Vasey; fireballs are falling from the sky and everything is coming apart at the seams. It turns out the makers of the show – the aforementioned Sheersmith, Gatiss, Pemberton and Dyson – have tired of writing The League Of Gentlemen.

The inhabitants of the village aren't going to take their demise lying down, however, and when they find a door in the local church that allows them visit the 'real' world three of them – murderous butcher Hilary Briss (Gatiss), angry everyman Geoff (Sheersmith) and camp German Herr Lipp (Pemberton) – arrive in London to tackle the writers head on.

All this meta malarkey makes for some surreal sequences where writers meet their cartoon-like creations and there's a mad sub-plot that sees the League writing an 18th Century farce called The King's Evil that stars Bernard Hill and Victoria Wood. When these parallel worlds get mashed up all hell pretty much breaks loose with all manner of movie references, in-jokes and surreal sequences arriving at breakneck speed.

There are cameos for all the League's most beloved creations and enough basic Carry On style humour to keep even non-believers in laughs.

Trust me, it's well worth a return visit.

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