Directed by Don Coscarelli
When celebrated horror director Don Coscarelli debuted his much-anticipated film adaptation of Jason Pargin’s praised novel at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (Sundance John Dies at the End review here), his passion for staying true to the jam-packed book, much to the film’s detriment, was criticized for its overly bloated runtime; and it was noted by many reviewers that another cut was definitely needed to fully enjoy the supernatural, CGI-infused horror-comedy for what it truly was.
Cut down by 11 minutes from its original version for the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Coscarelli left on the cutting room floor needless scenes of rambling dialogue, long narratives and even a cameo by Malcolm McDowell in order to give viewers and critics what they wanted. However, was enough fat trimmed from the plot in order to make this oddball horror film decadently enjoyable? Read on more to find out!
After an attention-grabbing prologue with the film’s sardonic protagonist, David Wong (Chase Williamson), hacking up a zombie that keeps returning from the grave in a routine fashion, we soon get to learn more about the film’s unlikely average hero when he meets a highly skeptical journalist named Arnie (Paul Giamatti) in a Chinese restaurant to recount the out of this world events that led to him and his best friend, John (Rob Mayes), to be demon exterminators and how they ended up saving the world from being taken over from a monstrous entity from a parallel universe.
Inconsistent storylines, penis doorknobs, bratwurst cell phones and the fear of soy sauce becoming the new “bath salts” craze ensue.
John Dies at the End is definitely a visually enticing effort from Coscarelli, and despite the fact that he has never been able to successfully escape the curse of his films constantly being used as a basis of comparison to his stellar festival hit Bubba Ho-Tep, his latest cut of this film is most certainly an improvement from the original version as there are hardly any moments that will leave viewers bored in their seats.
On the down side, though, most of the faults of the film are not eradicated with the tighter cut because the source material for John Dies at the End is, although very creative, also very flawed, self-indulgent and completely incoherent. Halfway in it loses its hyperactive lustre as it is clear to everyone watching that no character is particularly interesting and likable, and although very eye-grabbing, the apocalyptic sequences and many plot twists (including the racist and inexplicable ending) make it difficult to follow or in fact care about what is to follow next.
However, despite its faults sporadically displayed onscreen, John Dies at the End is still an amusing venture into the supernatural horror genre even though the audience most likely won’t be rooting for a sequel.
3 1/2 out of 5