John Dies at the End (2012)

Cover art:


John Dies at the End (2012)Starring Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti

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

Discuss John Dies at the End in the comments section below!

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  • James Coker

    Call me a Lunatic guys But I just think that Phantasm 3 is just bland, Oblivion is the “WTF” of the series but thats what I like about it, it leaves each viewer scratching their heads and interpreting what the whole franchise storyline means to them, 4 opens discussions and interpretations

  • conundrum

    Wow. I do not think I have ever seen a middle of the road review for either the book or the movie. Although a lot of what was said reminds me of what critics of the book HATED.

    I still wait with bated breath. The book and all of its lunacy enthralled me, and Don Coscarelli has hit with me far more than he has missed.

  • Diavolo

    Would be interested to see a review from someone that has read the book (assuming kalebson hasn’t). On hearing that a movie was going to be made from it, my first thought was “How?”, and this review sort of backs that up.

    • MagusMaleficus

      Ditto. It’s not exactly an unfilmable book but it’s pretty fuckin’ close.

  • James Coker

    I think Phantasm 3 is the weakest of the Phantasm sequels, Personally Favorite Phantasms is a Tie between the 1st and 2nd

    • Uncle Creepy

      You think III was worse than OblIVion? I’m still not even sure if I know what that movie is about!

      • Vanvance1

        Oblivion is the weakest of the Phantasm series, true. I still see it as a triumph of imaginative filmmaking over a pocket change budget.

        • LifeMi

          I don’t get the hate towards oblivion. Its the best of the sequels in my opinion.

          • Uncle Creepy

            Okay you’re on! Please tell me what they hell was going on in that movie!

          • kiddcapone

            For the record, I too think Oblivion is easily the worst of the series and I LOVE all things Phantasm.

            My own personal theory, and I’m sure that I’m not even close to being correct, but just trying to decipher the random shit in part 4: Mike has a brain tumor. All the movies were just the hallucinations of Mike while lying on the operating table. The Tall Man is actually a surgeon. Dr. Morningside removing the sphere from his head is the removing of the tumor.

            Am I right? I highly fucking doubt it, but that’s part of the charm of these movies. The what-the-fuck-is-going-on feeling you get while watching them.

          • Genrewriter

            Sounds about as possible as anything else. I’m not especially enthused with Oblivion either, it just seemed to have more ideas than it knew what to do with., Coscarelli gets points for effort, though.

          • Jon Condit

            I agree with you on Oblivion.

            And where do the comics fit in with your theory or do you not bother?

            This is one of those franchises that just has a really convoluted mythos.

          • kiddcapone

            I don’t read comics (with the exception of The Walking Dead because someone gave me a DVD with 91 issues and I occasionally check it out on break at work).

            Like I said, it’s not much of a theory but I can easily see them ending it with a Wizard of Oz type conclusion. Mike wakes up in the hospital and he’s surrounded by his brother Jody, Reggie, a nurse (the woman in Lavender), and the Tall Man / Dr. Jebediah Morningside. He finds out he almost died but Morningside removed the tumor from his brain with an object that looks like the blades on a sphere. And then just as the screen starts fading to black and the end credits are about to roll….A DWARF RUNS PAST THE RECOVERY ROOM DOOR…Was it all a dream? Or not ???

            I dunno, any ending has got to be better than Oblivion, unless the alternative is cutting to a URL address for more information about Phantasm.

          • LifeMi

            Alright then Creepy, here it goes; Phantasm IV is about the Tall Man trying to turn Mike into a new Tall Man. It’s like Return of The Jedi, only the Tall Man is both Vader and the Emperor all in one. I thought it was pretty clear.

          • Uncle Creepy

            Really? Ok then! I don’t know how you learned all that from watching that flick, but more power to ya!

          • Jon Condit

            I don’t know it’s been awhile but if I recall correctly that was my take on it as well.

          • LifeMi

            Go back and watch Phantasm IV and you’ll see what I’m talking about, Creepy. It felt like the Tall Man was trying to, for lack of a better term, lure him to the dark side because Mike is psychic and therefore would be a great asset to the Tall Man’s plans. Why else would the Tall Man lay out a suit for him or have Jody show Mike the Tall Man’s origin (or at least a version of it)? When he pulls the sphere out of Mike’s head, he’s accepting that Mike will never turn to the dark side, so he removes it so he can presumably use it on someone else with psychic powers. I’ll admit I might be reading a bit into it, but that’s how I’ve always taken it.

  • James Coker

    or Beastmaster

  • James Coker

    ill see this, and Vanvance1 “Coscarelli’s Track Record is perfect to date”???? have you seen Phantasm 3

    • LifeMi

      I like Phantasm 3; it’s not great, but it’s a good, fun film.

    • Vanvance1

      I liked Phantasm 3. Not as much as 1 and 2 but I still found it highly enjoyable.

      Coscarelli is always making the effort. He’s ambitious and I have a lot of forgiveness for ambition. For me the true sin is when a director makes completely generic, forgettable crap.

  • nazo

    Odd review. He rips the movie apart, then gives it 3/5.

    • Uncle Creepy

      I don’t think he ripped it at all. He said what was good and bad about it and the good outweighed the bad. A 3 is just above average.

  • LifeMi

    If Don Coscarelli made it, I want to see it. End of story.

  • Vanvance1

    Despite the review this is still my most anticipated movie of 2012. Coscarelli’s track record is perfect to date.