Monday, December 2, 2013

John Dies at the End - Review

David Wong (Chase Williamson), a white twenty-something living and operating in middle America, tells his dealings with the supernatural to a street-smart reporter (Paul Giamatti). Mainly, he recounts the tale of how he had to cope with a new furry (?) liquid drug called "soy sauce", an intelligent dog, bratwurst cellphones, a world ruled by EYES WIDE SHUT cosplayers, and his buddy John (Rob Mayes) somehow leaving him future messages from the past. Suffice to say, this adaptation of the horror-comedy novel devised by Wong (aka Jason Pargin) is an odd one, surely to piss off naive viewers while thoroughly pleasing niche audiences and fans of Cronenberg and Lovecraft. It retains the idiosyncratic playfulness of the book, including the fun little mental puzzle that kicks off the movie. Unfortunately for those who read and loved the book, the adaptation by writer-director Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, BUBBA HO-TEP) is truncated to make a streamlined feature, skipping over the later story arcs and sadly eliminating much of the character of Amy. Some of these removals are understandable; Coscarelli is clearly working with a low budget, often incorporating green-screening or dark lightning to make up for the film's shortcomings. Despite these setbacks, Coscarelli makes a highly eventful acid trip, balancing the awesome special effects by the likes of Robert Kurtzman with the slackerish wit of the original text. The entire cast is clearly on the same seriously goofball level, with Williamson and Giamatti getting most of the time to shine. Certainly not for everyone, this lighthearted journey through bodily nightmares and dick jokes is a cult treasure.


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