Directed by Don Coscarelli
Snow falls on Park City for our next entry at Sundance. From M3 Alliance and Midnight Alliance, we have the meaty John Dies at the End directed by Don Coscarelli.
This feature contains a slew of oddities including axe slayers, zombies, alien leeches, a “meatbeast” and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately for John Dies at the End, there may have been a few too many beasties as this somewhat confusing and overly long horror/comedy had a fair number of walkouts and nappers with its 110-minute runtime. It may have been the film’s length or possibly the ridiculous amount of philosophical dialogue involved in every conversation carried throughout the film. Regardless of the reason it just loses its flavor after the first act. However, John Dies at the End most certainly has some pretty original ideas, but original isn’t always good.
Adapted from the novel by Jason Pargin and told from the perspective of Dave (Chase Williamson) telling his story to a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), longtime friends John (Rob Mayes) and Dave are a couple lazy, pseudo monster hunters who are happiest when they are playing basketball, getting drunk or high off whatever they can get their hands on.
One night at a party at which John’s band is playing, John gets his hands on a hallucinogenic drug known as Soy Sauce or “the sauce” that horribly messes with his perception of time and reality. After the party Dave receives a phone call from John, who is not sure if he has called Dave previously that night or not but thinks he is about to be killed by something in his house. Dave heads out to John’s house to provide assistance but accidentally gets injected with “the sauce” himself.
The two are arrested and told that everyone at the party that had taken the drug was dead. John then seemingly dies at the police station. Dave, fearing for his own life, decides he must continue using the drug if he is to find out what happened to his friend, as John talks to him even after death through many means including a dog and even a bratwurst.
Does all of this sound odd enough? It most certainly is. It is very difficult to decipher exactly where this film goes off track. The first act, though revisited many times after, is certainly entertaining enough, but beyond that it feels like the same story over and over and never really goes anywhere. The biggest issue seems to be the dialogue, which goes from cheesy to confusing around the one hour mark and continues in that vein for the last 45 minutes or so.
Another problem falls in the realm of the film’s timeline; it’s all over the map, losing all cohesiveness in the middle of the second act, causing the viewer to lose focus on the story, and becoming rather mundane.
John Dies at the End is certainly not for everyone; you need a lot of patience to make it through the long narratives and some of the idiocy the film presents. It is certainly not all bad as there are some pretty decent effects, if even most are CGI driven. It is very funny for a good period of time as well. Coscarelli had an interesting vision and used a decent cast with a lot of nice cameos including Angus Scrimm and Malcolm McDowell.
There is even a nice sketched animation scene that was enjoyable, but at the end of the day the flick is still too long and peters out halfway through, leaving you bored and possibly aggravated depending on your taste in conversation. With some cuts John Dies at the End could be a great watch; however, in its current state I definitely recommend an intermission along the way to clear your mind of the lunacy. Normally I would say this was a 2-1/2, but I have to give an extra 1/2 just for Angus’ part in the movie.
3 out of 5