Let's decode the teaser poster for The World's End


19th July 2012

In which we put on our detective hats, and read far too much into the first teaser poster for The World's End. By which I mean chuck loads of keywords into Google to see what sticks. To the internet!

The movie Gods have been kind this week. Not only did Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg indulge us plebs in a game of internet peek-a-boo (concluding with Wright's surprise appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con to officially announce Ant-Man - oh you guys!), we were also treated to a teaser poster for the final instalment in their Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End. And here it is:

Click to view larger

We already know the plot for The World's End revolves around the mother of all pub crawls. Simple enough, you might say: eleven (or twelve - see updates further down) pubs listed neatly on the poster, half a shandy in each - they'll be well on their way to a hangover by the time the credits roll. But seeing as Wright and Pegg are now in the game of toying with us, it got me wondering if any of these names contain hidden references to people and places from their past, or even direct hints at what we can expect to see. Let's have a look...

The First Post

Starting as we mean to go on; a Google Maps search for "The First Post pub" reveals one positive match in Cosham, Portsmouth. Further keyword and local map searches on variations of familiar names and places doesn't reveal anything of interest - until we try the "The World's End Portsmouth", which brings up a small area tantilisingly called World's End in *gasp* Portsmouth. Could this be a clue towards... something? Probably not. Grasping at straws already? Almost definitely, but Portsmouth does seem like a nice place to buy an ice cream.

The Old Familiar

If this isn't a reference to The Winchester from Shaun Of The Dead then I'll eat my hat, your hat and all of the hats in the nearest branch of Topshop. The actual pub used for exterior shots was The Duke of Albany in New Cross, London, which has now been demolished. So it probably isn't a reference to The Winchester at all. Apart from that wild guess there aren't any direct matches for anything so, er, vampires call their human helpers 'familiars'? This is going well...

An old familiar, yesterday

The Famous Cock

Ah, finally - a pub that still exists (The Famous Cock Tavern in Islington) and seems like a plausible location for part of the film to be set in, hooray! Although I couldn't find any immediately obvious connections, which begs the question what - or rather who - is the 'famous cock'? In related news I now have the word "cock" in my browser cache appended with a series of men's names. What button deletes everything?

The Cross Hands

Our search method revealed several pubs called The Cross Hands - all located in and around Bristol, which just so happens to be where Simon Pegg attended University. A tribute to a beloved watering hole? The most interesting thing about this name are the religious connotations. Wright & Pegg have previously tackled zombies the undead and murderous secret societies, so a supernatural event to bring about a literal end of the world doesn't seem all that far-fetched. Are things about to get Biblical?

The Good Companions

Again, several direct matches. Most notable is a pub in Southampton that would make an ideal second stop if you *were* to start in Portsmouth and take the Megabus up the M27. Another potential stop in Croydon is near a shop called 'Build Your Bears Wardrobe', which claims to offer "Probably the best selection of teddy bear clothing for 15-inch bears" and has the most terrifying Google+ icon I've ever seen:

Cover your shame, pal.

The Trusty Servant

Well this is interesting. As well as being the name of a pub found at the far end of the M27, 'The Trusty Servant' is also the nickname for a legendary half-goat, half-stag creature called the Hircocervus - subject of a painting by John Hoskins that hangs in Winchester College, Hampshire. Winchester? Mythical creatures? The M27? Is this all starting to add up to something? Coincidentally (or not) Joss Whedon is an Old Wykehamist. Good for him.

Looks like a friendly enough chap...

The Two Headed Dog

No pubs with this name seem to exist, so I'll just copy and paste the following snippet from Wikipedia instead:

In Greek mythology, Orthrus was a two-headed dog and a doublet ("brother") of Cerberus, both whelped by the chthonic monsters Echidna and Typhon.
Cerberus' brother? More mythical beasties? What the devil? Wait, The Devil! Well it wouldn't *not* make sense...

The Mermaid

Oh hey look, another pub in Portsmouth along the M27. Wright and Pegg are from Dorset and Gloucestershire respectively, and were educated in Bournemouth and Bristol, so it makes sense their journey would take place in the South West of the country - Hot Fuzz did after all. And you thought this was going to be set in London?

The Beehive

There are loads of pubs named 'The Beehive', and they are mostly in London which sort of throws where I was heading with this article out a little bit (read: a lot). So maybe if we just forget about this one for a few years until the film comes out and everything is explained eh.

The King's Head

A pub called The King's Head is mentioned directly in Shaun Of The Dead, when Ed provides a deft bit of foreshadowing by suggesting they go there to "grab a bite to eat". Shaun Of The Dead is very definitely set in London, so... yet another hole in my theory? Maybe not, as there are tons of the buggers dotted all over the country:

What I'm saying is I'm ignoring this.

The Hole In The Wall

No matter where you search from, Google Maps insists on jumping you to the Hole In The Wall by the BFI IMAX near Waterloo, London. Apt, but try hard enough and you can find a pub with the same name in the middle of Bristol - and this one has links to pirate folklore! Ok, I don't expect we'll be seeing any pirates in The World's End, but then again I don't think anybody expected to see a Spielberg-directed Tintin film starring half the cast of Spaced, with a script by Edgar Wright and Joe from Adam & Joe. What was a major recurring theme in that film by the way? Oh yeah right: pirates!

Pirates arrr! Wait, not those ones.

See also: The Mermaid.

The World's End

And so here were are at journey's - and potentially the world's - end. Despite a few obvious contenders in London (and even one near where we've been sniffing around in Bristol), it's pretty much a given this refers to an event rather than a location. The official synopsis makes that clear with the following statement:

As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realise the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s
Something big is on the horizon, and by adding up all the "evidence" presented here we start to see a picture forming of local folklore, mythical creatures and an apocalypse waiting to happen. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this all occurs in the South West rather than London. The pubs qualifying as definite matches form a rough line through Portsmouth and Southampton, pointing the way towards Bristol - which fits nicely with Wright and Pegg's roots.

But why does any of this matter, who cares where they go or where the film is set? Well on one level it doesn't - I'm just making haphazard guesses based on not an awful lot. No doubt any of this is accurate, but I don't think Wright and Pegg would release a list of names like that without wanting nerds like us to spend hours scouring our brains and the internet looking for potential links to anything and everything.

It's a total bare-faced challenge. The gauntlet has been set.

Or maybe I just wasted about five hours of my life.
Update: I can't believe I missed this before - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play characters called Gary King and Andy Knight. King, Knight, references to history and mythology that go all the way back to medieval times and beyond. I need to stop stroking my chin now or it'll fall off, but surely none of this series of tenuous links I've convinced myself mean something are coincidences. R... right?

I'll update with more thoughts and ramblings as the voices in my head blurt them out. Bye for now!

Update 2: Back already. Twitter person Oog has pointed out some versions of the poster have The King's Head listed, while others don't:

A missing King's head? The only English monarch to be executed by beheading was Charles I in 1649, which resulted in the formation of the first Commonwealth of England. At least that's what Wikipedia says. So more ye olde tymey stuff eh? (*resumes chin-stroking*)

Update 3: Simon Pegg has announced there will be some casting news "soon", which seems like a good trigger for more wild speculation. What if the pub names are actors rather than places? I already suggested 'The Old Familiar' could refer to a human vampire helper, and Richard Jenkins who played Abby's father in the Let The Right One In remake seems like a good fit. He was also in Cabin In The Woods, which is the second time I've managed to make a highly tenuous connection to Joss Whedon. But what about the others?

Could The Famous Cock be... Michael Fassbender? According to twitter (sorry I can't find who suggested it now) he's been given that nickname on the Empire forums due his role in Shame, and as one of the most high-profile British actors at the moment it would also be a good fit with our most high-profile filmmakers.

Who could The Trusty Servant be? Well there's someone in cinemas right now who has the most trustworthy servant of them all: Batman. Alfred is played by Michael Caine - another name that wouldn't be totally unrealistic to suggest, especially as we're going down the avenue of nobility, and he's the King of English actors.

That's pretty much all I've got right now. If anyone has any further suggestions I'd love to hear, either in the comments or on twitter.

Update 4: Orange menace Lewis Bazley tells me his home town of Wells in Somerset has pubs called The Mermaid and The King's Head. Also it is right by Glastonbury, which means I can now start tying this all to Arthurian legend and Excalibur and Avalon and stuff like that. Wonderful.

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