‘John Dies at the End’ is a very hard movie to describe. While seemingly already telling you how the movie concludes, the path to the end is as mind-boggling as one would expect from the mind of the man who gave us ‘Bubba Ho-Tep.’ The film can only be described as quirky and unique and is about aliens, other dimensions, supernatural horrors and Soy Sauce… and not the kind that you pour over your Chinese food.
The film begins very promisingly with a narrative from David Wong (played by Chase Willaimson) telling the movie goer about a dream he had. The morbid deadpan humor and execution of that sequence was just a glimpse of what to expect from the film. We later find that David is speaking to journalist Arnie (Paul Giamatti) as he recounts his tale of how he and his friend, John (Ron Mayes), who may or may not have died at the end, battled the forces of evil beings to save the planet with the help of a blind dog and a one handed girl. All of this done with the help of Soy Sauce, a mind altering thick, black street drug that gives users psychic abilities, allows them to travel through the space-time continuum, and can open doors to other dimensions full of aliens who seek to dominate our world. Have I lost you yet?
The style of the way the story is told can be confusing with its time jumping of events and scenes taking you back to the restaurant where Arnie is interviewing David a bit misplaced. The graphic violence and deadpan humor made up for what the film may have lacked. And while the look of many of the CGI effects may seem low-brow, ‘John at the End’ is after all an Indie film and it seemed to fit well with the eccentric tongue-in cheek type of movie that it was.
As for the acting, Willaimson and Mayes have a very believable chemistry as friends who work together as college drop-outs who become psychic investigators. Their on-screen rapport holds the film together throughout the entire craziness that ensues. Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown also give great solid performances as they play their roles very straight despite the lunacy that surrounds them.
‘John Dies at the End’ is true example of a cult film. You’re either going to love it or hate it. You certainly can’t go into this film expecting to start at point A and travel straight to point B because, with anything dealing with space time continuum and Coscarelli’s mind, the path is not always a straight line. It’s a film that you would have to watch several times because there are a lot of nuances that seem to be missed the first time around. As for how true to the novel it’s based upon, I couldn’t say as I haven’t read it. But if it’s as crazy as the film, then it will be going on my “To Read” list!
If you enjoyed ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai’ and Coscarelli’s other films then this is one I would readily recommend you to see. Even those who have a morbid sarcastic sense of humor would enjoy ‘John Dies at the End.’ While I had not seen any of Coscarelli’s films prior to seeing this one, I found ‘John Dies at the End’ entertaining, inventive, scary and funny – a film worth watching if you are in the mood for something different.