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.