Despite its flaws, and it does have flaws, the film is one of the most entertaining horror movies I’ve seen in awhile.
Based on a novel by David Wong, the pseudonym of Cracked.com’s Jason Pargin, JOHN DIES AT THE END is the type of film that throws convention out the window in favor of an askew logic that actually enhances its sense of horror. In this regard, the film sits somewhere between Naked Lunch and the Jack Brooks Monster Slayer with a wildly surreal plot grounded by modest production value. Despite its flaws, and it does have flaws, the film is one of the most entertaining horror movies I’ve seen in awhile.
Director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-tep) does his best to adapt the basic elements from Wong’s novel, with two best friends (Dave and John) who get caught up in a inter-dimensional plot to take over our world that involves carnivorous nats, ghost doors, a meat monsters and time travel. That much is easy to understand. Some of Coscarelli’s decisions regarding how he gets from point A to point B, however, can lead to confusion.
The main story begins with Dave (Chase Williamson) talking to a news reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti) about a psychoactive drug called “soy sauce” that somehow grants him and John (Rob Mayes) paranormal abilities like mind-reading and time travel. The film then cuts back and forth between the past and present with Dave going on a mission to rescue his buddy Dave (both of whom have been injected with Soy Sauce) before teaming up to save the Earth. By the time we reach this point, weirdness has become the status quo and Coscarelli seemingly sits back to let it all unravel.
Intermittently, there are random introductions of supporting characters like renowned psychic and TV personality Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) and the enigmatic Roger North (Doug Jones), neither of whom seem to fit this specific story and only serve as plot holes for the anti-climatic ending. A little more crucial to the story is Dave’s one-handed girlfriend, Amy (Fabianne Therese), and her dog, Molly, who plays a pivotal role in the final outcome of the film.
Much like its source material John Dies at the End is anything except predictable and does assume a certain suspension of disbelief to work, but the payoff is totally worth it. I’d much rather see a fun, ambitious horror movie like this over another failed remake or flaccid sequel. The film is now available on VOD (Video On Demand) and will receive a limited theatrical release later this month (January 25th).