I’m sure plenty of you are wondering “Matt, why would you watch a movie that’s spoiled in its own title? John dies at the end, why does it matter what happens in between?” To that I say many, many things, but most importantly – you have no f*cking idea what John Dies At The End is about. In fact, I’m still not sure I do, but I do know that I loved every weird, time altering, creature infested moment.
Based on David Wong’s (Jason Pargin) cult sci-fi novel of the same name, writer/director Don Coscarelli has brought life to an incredibly complex work of fiction involving parallel dimensions, a darkly comedic blend of science fiction and horror, and a brand new drug called Soy Sauce that can alter people’s perception on reality in a way only Hollywood could portray.
Without giving too much away, or confusing you too much, I should say that John Dies At The End follows two slacker types named Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who stumble upon a mystical Rastafarian with a magical drug called Soy Sauce. While on the spastic black goo, our party-hearty heroes start to experience crazy side effects, opening doors and alternate realities average everyday humans miss seeing with their unfocused brains. As their lives only get stranger and more complicated, the duo become obsessed with saving the world and figuring out why they’re seeing alien-like lifeforms killing people they know.
Now, the intriguing part about John Dies At The End is Dave not only acts as a main character, but also narrator as he’s recalling all the events for a journalist named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), who heard legends of Dave and John and contacted Dave in an attempt to get their crazy story public. Giamatti, being the brilliant character actor he is, plays an incredulous man listening to an obviously drugged out lunatic tell stories about hearing dead people’s voices through food or passing through ghost doors, yet listens on with an almost childlike curiosity, like he doesn’t not want to believe. These are the roles Giamatti wonderfully excels at, not necessarily being front and center, but playing off of someone else, and the actor bring loads of enticing personality to his character Arnie.
The film is called John Dies At The End though, and Dave is his best friend, so how does the dynamic duo work together?
Perfectly. Absolutely perfectly. The comedic/buddy chemistry between the two holds a ton of weight, whether we’re watching the two banter about Soy Sauce or fight shape-shifting monsters which can manifest in any form. You won’t know Williamson and Mayes from any other big-time productions, but you’re damn well going to after this brilliantly visual flick.
My favorite moments among the film are almost tied between creature feature insanity and the Ghostbusters like teamwork between the two worldly warriors. Though the best parts are undoubtedly Coscarelli’s eccentric and demented vision which brings clear focus to the other worldly elements of John Dies At The End, John and Dave do an awesome job of making even duller moments of nothing but dialogue wonderful fun. It’s just two hilarious friends chatting and joking around on a personally relatable level (if you can relate to the apocalypse), something not all actors can do well.
The real achievement here is no doubt Don Coscarelli’s magnificent work with Wong’s source material. If you’ve seen this film already, you understand the absurd subject matter any mind brave enough to tackle the novel has to deal with. If not, please believe Coscarelli went out on a limb to properly portray Wong’s material on the big screen, keeping true to freaky visuals and an engulfing story that could easily become convoluted if not carefully attended to. Given that my sci-fi mind was pleasurably probed and prodded, my horror side squirmed and screamed at outlandish creatures, and my dark comedy loving side was left in stitches – I’d say John Dies At The End is a film that David Wong (Jason Pargin) should watch with a continuous smile on his face. Don Coscarelli is the man to applaud for such a feat, delivering tremendously on all genre fronts.
It’s hard to recommend John Dies At The End because Coscarelli will absolutely challenge some brains, but personally, I like the Soy Sauce influenced insanity which had my mind spinning with glee. It’s ballsy filmmaking, flat out, grabbing a cult worshipped novel and adapting it in a way that has to win over both long-time fans and first-time watchers, but all parties involved make that dream happen. If you’re ready for a more plot-advanced watch, are into other dimensions, or just want to have your mind f$cked, then boy, do I have the movie for you.