JOHN DIES AT THE END
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli (screenplay), David Wong (novel)
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Jonny Weston, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones
Have you ever begun watching a film and within the first five minutes thought “Oh God. What did I get myself into?” Yet only five minutes later proclaimed “Holy shitballs! This film is amazing!?” Well look no further, as director Don Coscarelli’s horror/ sci-fi/ comedy JOHN DIES AT THE END is just the film to make you say both – possibly aloud. If you like the whip-smart dialogue and charm of author Douglas Adams and writer-director Joss Whedon, this film is for you! And if you don’t, what the fuck is wrong with you?
When the drug “Soy Sauce,” which promises an otherworldly experience, infects mid-western slacker buddies David (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes), all hell attempts to break loose on Earth. Our surreal journey cuts in and out of David telling his tale (for a potential story deal) to schlubby reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti) in a deserted Chinese restaurant. Not only are supernatural creatures afoot, but the police, led by Detective Lawrence ‘Morgan Freeman’ Appleton (Glynn Turman), want to know why a group of partying college kids have inexplicably disappeared or turned up dead. Possibly holding the key to unlock this mystery is the svengali-esque spiritualist Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown). However, it would seem the fate of the world is really in the hands of these two college dropouts.
Embracing its B-movie camp, Coscarelli’s adaptation of David Wong’s raucous genre-smashup novel is pure fun and imagination. The narrative brilliantly sticks to the rules it puts forth – something huge Hollywood blockbusters have a hard time doing. What also makes this movie shine is Williamson’s dry delivery of the spectacularly hilarious dialogue. Mayes, Giamatti, and Turman all pull off scene-stealing comedic moments – whether it be using a bratwurst as a phone, freaking out in a car, or dealing with an existential crisis. Sure, some of the effects look like terrible green-screen, and yes, there is a villainous expository speech near the end, but these are the endearing hallmarks of a cinematic sub-genre. There’s also a bold and creative Christ metaphor that needs to be seen to be believed.
JOHN DIES AT THE END has nary a dull moment, and I laughed throughout the entire film. It’s utterly clever, deliciously bonkers (maybe too much so for some audiences), and an unexpected delight. Best of all, this film is not made exclusively for the unwashed midnight movie masses. It’s for anyone who finds humor in darkly comedic situations and craves a zany, totally unique adventure. And who doesn’t?!
4.5 out of 5
JOHN DIES AT THE END plays AFI FEST onNovember 2 and 3, is available on VOD on December 27. The film opens theatrically on January 25, 2013