Review: John Dies at the End / Cert: 15 / Director: Don Coscarelli / Screenplay: Don Coscarelli / Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Doug Jones / Release Date: Out Now
John Dies at the End is one of those films where you really don’t know where to start when it comes to describing it. Working from David Wong’s novel, Don Coscarelli (the Phantasm series, Bubba Ho-Tep) looks to take his audience on a truly mind-bending trip.
At the centre of John is a new street drug called ‘soy sauce.’ Looking remarkably like the Venom symbiote from the Spider-Man world, soy sauce seemingly kills most people who take it. Luckily for Dave (Williamson) and the titular John (Mayes), they manage to survive dabbling with soy sauce, although the bizarre side-effects of the drug give them the ability to see into the future and to fight ancient paranormal evil.
The movie opens with a fantastically tongue-in-cheek prelude of sorts, involving Dave, an axe, and a decapitation. From here we’re transported to the present day, as Dave is interviewed in a Chinese restaurant by Paul Giamatti’s writer. We then learn, via the joys of flashbacks, Dave’s journey and the frankly bonkers happenings of his and John’s adventures.
Pulling inspiration from the likes of Bill & Ted, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Monty Python and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, John is a bizarre, fun and quirky movie that treats the audience to some truly strange visuals. Complete with great practical effects work, we get killer slugs, geeky references a-plenty, zombies, bestiality, a creature made purely out of meat products, propane-fuelled paintball guns, and the bizarre sight of one of the key characters taking advice from a hot dog.
For relative newcomers, Williamson and Mayes are great as the bummed-out losers who end up thrown into this crazed sereis of events. As ever with a Don Coscarelli movie, the film is a mishmash of happenings, often wandering far away from any form of true narrative. If you’re a fan of Coscarelli’s work, you’ll find yourself purring through John, whilst others may find the film just a little too odd and unique for their tastes.
John Dies at the End is one of those films that will be a delight for some and a complete head-fuck for others. It’s a film that pays out to those who invest their full attention in it, and it is just how you would imagine a Don Coscarelli adaptation of Wong’s novel to pan out. With enough pulled from the source material to appease long-time fans, there’s also the massively unique and undeniable stamp of Coscarelli firmly in place.
If you’re undecided on whether to give John Dies at the End your time – and it will require your full focus – then we'd advise you to jump in, leave you sense of logic at the door, sit back and enjoy the trip.