John Dies at the End, the new film from horror-comic master Don Coscarelli, is a delight from start to finish. A madcap criss-cross of genres, it’s one of those rare movies that inspires a constant grin and comes to an end long before outstaying its welcome. In bringing David Wong’s novel to screen, Coscarelli’s distinct brand of humor and tongue-in-cheek special effects elevate the trans-dimensional adventures of Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) to farcical perfection. Though not for everyone, the film is easily the most exciting work since Holy Motors and is sure to elate those who appreciate competent weirdness.
Framed by Dave’s conversation with journalist Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), the film centers on a drug nicknamed Soy Sauce that gives its users an otherworldly hyperawareness. Recounting how he first came in contact with the Sauce, Dave’s wry narration sets a sage slacker tone from the start, creating a relaxed and playful base from which the film’s unusual events can grow. In his first leading role, Williamson nails each line with impeccable comedic timing and exudes an everyman quality to heighten the bizarreness around him. Cued to Brian Tyler’s heroic Spaghetti Western theme, the ensuing blend of sci-fi, horror, and buddy comedy yields a constant rush of supreme entertainment and sights unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere.
Through a wonderful mix of handmade and computerized effects, John Dies at the End is endlessly creative, but it’s what Coscarelli does with these designs that makes the film so enjoyable. Like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, Dave and John are unafraid to speak up in the face of supernatural entities and even lay down a few insults. When an evil manifestation comprised of various frozen meats mistakes the two for its nemesis, Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown), they keep their cool and call out its stupidity. Reducing the creature to a punchline, the situation takes on an even greater absurdity when Dave hands over his cell phone so that the monster and Marconi can, as Dave says, “settle their differences.”
The intersection of horror and comedy on display here and throughout John Dies at the End is precisely what the droves of scary movie parodies attempt yet rarely achieve. When it’s firing at this high of a level, the possibilities for fun feel limitless and, true ringmaster that he is, Coscarelli does not disappoint. In such an environment, it’s natural for a dog named Bark Lee to drive a truck and for bratwursts to act as phones, from which characters receive calls from the future (or is it the past?) made by someone presently seated before them. While it all may sound a bit difficult to piece together, connecting the dots is less important than getting caught up in the film’s idiosyncratic fervor, something Coscarelli and his on-point cast make extremely easy. Go with the flow and such questions answer themselves in time; that, or their mystery only adds to the film’s electric vibe.
Eleven years after Elvis and a dyed-black JFK kept their nursing home safe from a murderous Egyptian mummy, Coscarelli follows up Bubba Ho-Tep with another cult classic. Fresh and imaginative at every turn, the surprises never cease in John Dies at the End, and neither will the smile across the receptive viewer’s face.
Rated R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content.
John Dies at the End is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
Already gone from Carolina Cinemas! LAME!
I take it you liked the movie?
So it goes for quirky cinema in Asheville. JOHN lasts a week while IDENTITY THIEF hangs around for over a month (and makes $125 million nationwide!?!?!?). Money talks.
Marc, I hated Breakfast on Pluto, but I am giving this one a try…
I absolutely loved this movie. Filmmakers, do more like this one!