John Dies at the End

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Cult director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) set out to please fans of the  novel by David Wong at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. After listening to desired changes from the fans, the film was complete a year later with 11-minutes cut. Coscarelli deeply cares for the fans but there are still loose ends that needed to be tied and several crucial plot points that are left out. Regardless, this horror comedy is still one of the wildest rides I have experienced in a while. Far from contemporary, nothing is as it seems. John Dies at the End is an out of this world, mind-blowing acid trip on the same level as David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, minus the homosexuality. With HP Lovecraftian creatures, flying mustaches, talking dogs, penis doorknobs, a large abundance of tits, bratwurst phones, and demons made of frozen meat sporting a turkey for a head, the action never stops. It’s incredibly irresistible. Most critics overuse the word ‘zany’ while critiquing the film. I am so fucking tired of that word. I like to think of it as the horror version of Dude, Where’s My Car?

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Here’s the lowdown; After a random opening where our lead slacker David Wong beheads a Nazi zombie and rambles on about how a broken ax that has pieces replaced isn’t the same ax, much like the entities in the story that come back differently, we meet journalist Arnie Blondestone in a dark Chinese restaurant where David recounts his bizarre tale about a drug titled “Soy Sauce” that opens doorways to the netherworld and gives it’s users psychic abilities. The overweight, balding reporter Arnie is skeptical off and on until David proves his ability to read dreams. David likes to think of him and his best friend John as exorcists that beat out the baddies much like the Ghostbusters.

The first half of the film starts strong. Without reading a thing about the plot, I had no idea what the hell was going on. Two years before the interview with Arnie, David meets a bizarre levitating Jamaican drug dealer named Robert Marley who wows David with his psychic abilities. Later on that night, David receives several strange calls from a paranoid John who is suffering from side effects of the Soy Sauce. With a syringe in David’s pocket, he inevitably falls victim to the drug. This sets the wheels in motion as David and John try to save the world from this big bad named Korrok. It’s hard to summarize this plot because there’s so much going on. I do not wish to spoil it for you guys so I am ending it here.

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“Hey Mon, you owe me a beer, mon.”

The cast is nicely balanced with newcomers and well known talents like Angus Scrimm, Clancy Brown, and Paul “I’m Not Drinking Any Fucking Merlot!” Giamatti. The comedy helps to keep the viewers interested in a completely ludicrous plot. For instance, “They called you the ‘N’ word?” Was a nice touch. I found David Wong’s sarcastic, dry skepticism to be rather charming. The amount of bloodshed and gore will please the average horror fan and the score fits nicely with the film’s tone. There are some scenes here and there that I could do away with and some long, pointless rambling that could be cut but overall I’d have to say I really enjoyed it and I am currently reading the book. John Dies at the End is not to be taken seriously. If you prefer contemporary films, it’s best to skip this one. Hoping for a sequel.

 

  • Kristen

    Good job Ms. Herzberg. This movie was a strange ride.