John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End is a wonderful irreverent horror movie. The great thing about irreverence is I think you have to have reverence before you can remove it. Don Coscarelli celebrates his and our love of monsters and cataclysm by reframing their cinematic power.

David Wong (Chase Williamson) and his friend John (Rob Mayes) deal with supernatural problems all the time. A meat monster is just something they know how to handle. They do get in a bit over their head when a drug called Soy Sauce gives them psychic powers and unlocks their path to alternate dimensions and time.

All of these wonderful creatures and metaphysical tangent must come from the book by the real life Wong. It still makes a very special movie where talented artists bring these ideas to visual life. This breadth of this story encapsulates al different types of monsters from the paranormal to the surreal. I won’t give away any more specifics.

The banter between David and John is sly. Maybe not quite as fast paced as a Joss Whedon script but the right tone and a confidence in the nonchalant perspective the characters take.

The story covers a lot of ground, taking David and John to different realms and reaching through multiple time periods. It flows smoothly and you never lose your place as an audience. I found the pace a little slower in the beginning, establishing plot in between wild monster moments, but man, those moments were totally worth waiting for. I felt that way about Bubba Ho-tep too so maybe you all will like that aspect of it. Then it totally ramps up once all the balls are in motion.

Coscarelli makes the most of the indie spirit/budget too. The effects are top notch and film looks polished like a studio movie. It’s clearly working within the constraints of the genre, so instead of filling the world with clutter like a Hollywood movie, they focus on the one important element.

You might hope Paul Giamatti were in the movie more, but the only character that makes sense for him is really a bookend. Clancy Brown stands out too and Doug Jones has a nice non-makeup role, but it’s really about the guys.

I don’t know if it’s scary but I’m pretty immune to that anyway. I like entertaining horror and John Dies at the End is definitely that. There are other shocking horrific midnighters at Sundance that will satisfy the other need. I can’t think of the name off the top of my head but there’s at least one.

Official Score

  • scaretissuetrapjaw

    I love Slipknot. I’ve loved nearly everything they put out, and been a fan since their first album. I’ve been to many of their concerts and seen their feuds with Mushroomhead, drummers doing the strangest things, and love the combination of horror and metal.

    I was at Mayhem Fest in 2012 (the concert in the video) and I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The show was great, and we had our tickets upgraded from lawn to pavilion. Unfortunately, the tickets were not together. Halfway through the show, my buddy texts me that we have an “in” to the after party. Unbelieving, I made other plans.

    The show was awesome, and I found out what we had to do to get backstage. We had to buy light up devil horns from a certain vendor, go to a certain gate, and wait for the crowd to disperse. I wasted my money on a pair of light up devil horns, and I followed my friends. Long story short…it worked. It shouldn’t have, but it did. We partied with the bands (Slipknot, Anthrax, Slayer, Motorhead). I was left confused as to what just happened in a wooded (pitch black) parking lot at 3 am looking for my car.

    John Dies At The End reminds me of that night. It’s filled with a random series of events that all converge in the right way for the heroes. It doesn’t quite make sense, but then again, it does. It’s the Matrix meets the Evil Dead.

    The beginning scene of John Dies At The End is very reminiscent of Zombieland. The audience is told that the answer to the following riddle will reveal “the awful secret of the universe”: David beheads a zombie with an ax and breaks the handle. He replaces the handle, but then the head breaks later. He replaces the head, and the zombie (that he beheaded) returns and says “That’s the ax that slayed me.” Is he right?

    And, thus, we begin the film.

    David (Chase Williamson) is at a restaurant telling his story to a reporter (played by Paul Giamatti). The entire movie is told as a flashback. David first tells him about how he and his friend (John) helped a girl battle her abusive ex (and dead) boyfriend. We learn David has psychic powers due to this drug called Soy Sauce. He was pricked by a needle containing the stuff and his life made a dramatic change. Most of the movie focuses on these initial events as David wants to get his story out, but the reporter has trouble believing him.

    The storyline to John Dies At The End is The Matrix of horror. David’s powers make him aware of the alternate realities out there, and give him special insight to the world and events around him. He can see into the future, and he can interact with the past. The writing and effects (especially the monster in the basement) have me longing for David Wong to write the (rumored) sequel to Army of Darkness as the movie plays like a sequel to the Evil Dead series. I loved it. There are some slow parts, but like Evil Dead, these are forgotten in the epic moments it presents.

    The acting is ok, and this is not the type of movie you can play on your phone and watch simultaneously. Otherwise, you’ll be rewinding (like I was) over and over trying to figure out what just happened (It also helped that I couldn’t sleep and was watching this on low volume.). The gore is mostly CGI and it works sometimes. There’s other times that it doesn’t.

    It is a fun movie though. Like my experience at Mayhem Fest, there are many memorable WTF moments. My favorite was how David was instructed how to escape the police station via a broken cell phone and a hot dog. The dog (Bark Lee) was an awesome addition to the story. It did a great job walking the line between horror and comedy, and found a perfect mix between the two.

    If I took the movies The Matrix and Evil Dead, put them in a blender, and poured it out… John Dies At The End would be the result. It’s a great comedy/adventure that disguises itself as a horror movie and definitely worth a look. It is currently streaming on Netflix.