Title: John Dies at the End
Director: Don Coscarelli
Screenwriter: Don Coscarelli from David Wong’s novel
Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Bark Lee
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 12/20/12
Opens: January 25, 2013
Why bother taking an acid trip (LSD) when, without the side effects and with a few laughs you can go to a movie and take a similar journey? “John Dies at the End” is so loaded with visual effects that you’ll be dreaming in an array of colors such as you may have found in the film “Samsara.” Though not specifically mentioned by the production team, the movie could serve as a spoof of “Alien” and all those pics that features worm-like monsters coming out of chests. This time, though, instead of straight people like Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley in Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” you get two goofy, likeable, all-American guys who are credibly wide-eyed with each out-of-body experience that they, well, experience.
Adapted from David Wong’s novel of the same time, “John Dies at the End” follows the central concept of the big, fat, 496-page book but provides fewer scares and more laughs. As in the book, the two principal characters are chosen by soy sauce, a hallucinogenic drug, that allows its imbibers to read minds and do some cool time-machine-like tricks like tell the life of a chicken before it became an entrée.
The film is framed by a conference held between David Wong (Chase Williamson—funny he doesn’t look Asian) and Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), the latter a seen-it-all journalist who will discover something original for the first time in ages, while the former has been force-fed the soy sauce. As they confer in a Chinese restaurant, Arnie discusses the events of the past several weeks which convince Arnie that the only thing you can take for granted is that David and his buddy Rob Mayes (John Cheeseman) are really human and not ghosts. In fact even the journalist, a pudgy white guy with a beard, may have really been a black man who had been beheaded and left in a car trunk.
With loopy dialogue, some fierce visual effects, and an impressive array of prosthetics which in one scene masks a cult of people from an alternate universe composed of a spokesman and a number of topless women, director Don Coscarelli deals with the flashback sequences with mock horror as one young woman turns into a seven-foot monster, a man (or several) get their heads blown off quite graphically, and a dog named Bark Lee pays the ultimate price by saving humankind from extinction.
Rated R. 100 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B-
Technical – A
Overall – B