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John Dies at the End


Far-out fun.

Rod Lott April 12th, 2013

Better than the hit novel on which it’s as faithfully based as budgetary issues allow, John Dies at the End is one of those movies that tries really hard to be a cult movie. In this case, however, the goal has been met; I suspect that, as with most of director Don Coscarelli’s work, from Phantasm and The Beastmaster to Bubba Ho-Tep, we’ll still be discussing this one decades later. That’s not to say it’s without faults.

johndies
“My name is David Wong. I once saw a man's kidneys grow tentacles,” intones our genial narrator and protagonist (the heretofore unknown Chase Williamson) who boasts psychic abilities that include communicating with the dead. He and his  best bud, John (Rob Mayes, MTV’s The American Mall), operate as freelance ghostbusters when they’re not beer-drinking slackers.

The story’s big problem, both in book and on film, it’s that it’s overplotted, when all you really to need to know is that there’s a new, dangerous drug on the streets dubbed “soy sauce.” You’ll recognize it because the liquid, shootable substance is dark in color, bears spikes and moves with a mind on its own. It also opens other-dimensional doorways, which leads to a third act that is a little exhausting; it simply can’t keep up the inspired pace forever.

The joy of John is the duo’s earthbound adventures in the everyday, when they’re encountering all those Things That Should Not Exist Yet Are, including a monster made entirely of meat products (arguably the film’s highlight); a flying, sentient mustache; and giant, man-eating spiders. All this is pulled off with aplomb, smiles and heightened credibility via a supporting role by Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages) as a skeptic journalist.

This one thrives, too, in the details. For example, among Wong’s collection of movies stacked around his modest TV set is something labeled Irate Bovine, so pay attention. Touches like that help sustain the film’s general goofiness throughout, even during the scenes of oopy, goopy gore. Coscarelli doesn’t work nearly enough for my liking (not his fault), but when he does, he generally does not disappoint. Here, he gives viewers something that has the feel of being original, even if it’s not. Let’s just call it a good time and enjoy.  —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Don Coscarelli interview    
Phantasm IV: Oblivion DVD review     
Rock of Ages Blu-ray review   




 
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