John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End is now available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: Movie Dies at the End but is great until then.

John Dies at the EndJohn Dies at the End (2012) – Rated R

“Promising a trip that transcends time and space, a drug called Soy Sauce is sweeping the landscape — and quietly robbing users of their humanity. Now, it’s up to a couple of slackers to stop the psychotropic invasion before it’s too late.”

I’ve always been meh about writer/director Don Coscarelli’s popular Phantasm series. I think the problem was that not only did I not catch them when they came out at the theater but that by the time I did, I expected a horror movie with a straight forward narrative and decent acting. They are certainly inventive and dream-like. I was blown away by Bubba Ho-Tep. Not only was there nothing like it but it was really good as were the two leads. The incredibly rampant profanity is offputting at first but really works in context.

I was really looking forward to catching John Dies at the End in the theater. It opened at our local Carolina and, being busy, planned to catch it on the second week. Amazingly it only lasted the one but here we are a month and a bit later and its already on instant Netflix. Lucky me!

Unlike Coscarelli’s other films, John Dies at the End is an adaptation of a book and not an original work. Coscarelli still wrote the screenplay. I have not read the book so I am not able to comment on comparisons.

The opening is an absolutely brilliant reframing of an old existential question to wonderful effect. The movie continues being marvelously weird right up through the ending. The finale appears to be the only weak point – the long, strange trip has to wrap up and it does, in haste. As if to apologize, there are a large number of bonus scenes that play out over the end credits.

All of the actors are engaging. Unknown Chase Williamson plays our lead, Dave and Rob Mayes is his best friend, the titular John. Both are quite likable. They are backed up by veteran actors, Paul Giamatti as a reporter and Clancy Brown as the mysterious Dr. Marconi. Glynn Turman steals the show as Detective Lawrence Appleton.

It is obvious that John Dies at the End has a low budget but Coscarelli actually makes that work for him, adapting the story and locales to suit the budget. Again, only the finale really seems to have run out of money. John Dies at the End is a wonderful, strange trip – you may not like the destination but you’ll really enjoy the ride.

Now Mr. Coscarelli, where is my Bubba Nosferatu?

People Watch: Look for the ultra-thin Doug Jones as Roger North. He is more regularly seen covered in heavy makeup as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, Ice Cream Man in Legion, Fauno in Pan’s Labyrinth, Joey in Men in Black II, and my favorite, one of the gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.