Saturday, March 30, 2013

John Dies at the End: Movie Review


Ridiculous, funny, philosophical, disgusting and messy – a true comedy-horror film.
Lots of movies like to show you the ending at the beginning, but very few tell you the ending in the title. “John Dies at the End” has that illusive entertaining title and an even more entertaining plot summary: “A silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't.” That piece of brilliant writing comes courtesy of the author of the source novel. 2012

Directed by: Don Coscarelli

Screenplay by: Don Coscarelli
Based on the story by David Wong

Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes and Paul Giametti

Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes in JOHN DIES AT THE END,
a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
While it is based on a novel based on a “true story”, this film comes directly from the cheesy, campy direct-to-video horror films of the 80s. It's one of those films where reality, logic and decency gets thrown out the window before they've even written the first word of the script. But, man, that is one damn funny script. John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson) work as a pair of supernatural spirit hunters (or something like that) and speak in code where picking up beer on the way means grab your club with nails in it and come fight monsters.

It's hard to describe the humour, but it really is funny. I haven't really seen any of the fantasy-horror films that they likely alluded to in many jokes, I also don't find it funny when disgusting monsters explode or meet their makers in an equally disgusting manner (which happens a lot), but the way the film worked its way in and among the time travel in not just our universe but also alternate universes, was very funny. Philosophical monologues would be interspersed with hot dogs serving as cell phones, talking dogs, and Jamaican magicians named Robert Marley.

Chase Williamson and Paul Giamatti in JOHN DIES AT THE END,
a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
I bet you're wondering how all of that fits in one movie. Not very neatly it doesn't. “John Dies at the End” was messy in every sense of the word. The film used a mish-mash of special effects techniques to create all the bugs, monsters and other infestations which all get more visually-unappealing as the film goes on. The story is all over the place as is the genre. All of which should be expected. It's a low-budget film and had to rely on whatever they could get their hands on to create whatever they could. It has also been adapted from a 500-page novel to a 100-page screenplay and it involves mind-altering drugs, characters travelling back-and-forth in time (the characters themselves got confused with that), and supernatural entities forming into existence pretty much randomly. This is a true comedy-horror film. The ridiculousness of a horror film presented for laughter based on the ridiculousness of it all.

Who Might Like This: Anybody who likes horror-comedies with a little bit of philosophy mixed in; people who like the cheesy horror movies from the '80s - especially those who grew up on the straight-to-VHS releases.