Spoiler alert – John Dies at the End review

John Dies at the End

By Richard Haridy
November 20, 2013

Adapted from a novel with the same wonderful title, John Dies At The End is a gloriously gonzo trip packed with enough odd narrative tangents to fill half a dozen features. While not always successful, this energetic genre mash-up so genuinely wants to entertain and surprise that it’s hard not to be won over by its barrage of absurdity.

JDATE (my favourite acronym of 2013) is framed by a conversation in a Chinese restaurant between Dave (Chase Williamson) and journalist Arnie (Paul Giamatti). Dave has a pretty incredible story to tell Arnie that covers – among other things – a drug called ‘soy sauce’ that gives the user psychic powers, a battle with a monster made out of meat products, inter-dimensional beings who deploy giant parasitic leeches, a sentient computer named Korrok that is trying to control multiple dimensions, and a dog that can drive a pickup truck.

John Dies at the End

The narrative’s constant tonal shifts do become numbing after a while and the final act is frustratingly formulaic, but when John Dies At The End fires all cylinders, it is a spectacular rush. Director Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm) knows exactly how to pitch this type of story, cleverly balancing a novel mix of drug comedy, gory body horror, and OTT sci-fi. At its best the picture resembles a cross between Joss Whedon‘s Buffy and Ghostbusters as directed by Terry Gilliam. At its worst, the film is a noisy, unintelligible mess. Occasionally it is both of those things at once. It’s the type of movie where a man’s moustache leaps off his face and flies around the room for no explainable reason. If you can’t embrace the weird then you will have some trouble.

John Dies At The End is definitively a cult flick in that it will not appeal to everyone. Many will find it annoyingly incomprehensible or relentlessly silly. Yet it’s also so much more. In adapting this free-wheeling meta-novel, Coscarelli has perfectly understood how a classic psychedelic midnight movie functions and John Dies At The End is utterly attuned to those murky late-night viewings where your brain has been infiltrated by numerous intoxicants.

3.5/5

John Dies at the End will be available on Quickflix from November 20, 2013.

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