PrintE-mail Written by Katherine McLaughlin

Review: John Dies at the End / Cert: TBC / Director: Don Coscarelli / Screenplay: Don Coscarelli / Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck / Release Date: TBC

Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli returns with his first film since 2002's Bubba Ho-Tep, and it's a masterful manifestation of special effects, animation and humour, all mixed to make a slithering sickly platter of hellfire, damnation and demon-fuelled trippy aesthetics.

Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) are introduced to a gloopy, malleable black drug called Soy Sauce and instead of having the time of their lives they become embroiled in a nightmare of apocalyptic proportions. Straddling time, space and hell, this film never lets up and though it may become convoluted it remains thoroughly entertaining. A retrospective, comical tale is told to reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti who has long wanted to work with Coscarelli) by Dave and this format works well as there is so much information to unload to viewers. Watching two men talk over dinner may not sound like much fun but Giamatti brings his usual charm to the table with newcomer Williamson engaging with him in some sarcastic and amusing conversation. Add in the fact that Clancy Brown makes an appearance as an expert in supernatural phenomena and you know this is only going to be enjoyable.

The source material written by Jason Pargin has been tinkered with and slimmed down, and if you are a fan of the novel then you will miss some of the characters and their storylines. After that initial disappointment dies down and you begin to realise only some have made the cut, the surreal and hallucinogenic nature of the film takes over. There are some iconic scenes from the book that have been translated extremely well though; those important visuals fans of the book have been waiting for are thankfully not a CGI mess with the meat monster being a particularly well fleshed out slab of awesomeness.

Coscarelli interprets John Dies at the End in his own vision, which is justified, as the book was so vast and intricate in detail, it could never have been achieved on a small budget. He has focused on the two main characters giving them some cool and quotable one-liners and fast-paced if somewhat confusing dialogue that is nothing if not food for thought. There are phallic creatures, exploding eyeballs, mysterious strangers, alien encounters and those monsters you see out of the corner of your eye all bringing a wacky charm to this wild trip. Williamson and Mayes are well cast as the leads and bring a much-needed zingy charisma to their roles.

With an amusing (and foul mouthed) double act at the centre of some strange activity, it brings to mind Eerie Indiana or the Bill & Ted movies. It also leaves you wanting more, which is not a bad thing, but it feels like you’ve only just started watching when it’s already over. A warp speed paced film, packed full of weird, funny moments that are sure to baffle but also bring a beaming grin to your face.

Expected Rating: 9 out of 10

Actual Rating:

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0 #1 Sam 2012-12-31 01:43
Thanks for the review, Katherine! I work with a few movie buffs at DISH, and we have a weekly movie marathon. We dig through the thousands of movies available from DISH’s Blockbuster @Home rental service, looking for the craziest movies we can find. I wasn’t sure about John Dies at the End, but I read your review, and knew that this would be my selection for the week; my friends are going to get a huge kick out of this movie.

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