John Dies at the End (2012)

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

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

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

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    Was really looking forward to this one but WTF? really didn’t get it was just cheesey to me not funny at all just a bore with bad effects , whatever floats your boat this didn’t do it for me.

  • Sirand

    I love, love, LOVE this film. One of Coscarelli’s best!

    But how the hell is the ending “racist?”

  • conundrum

    I really, REALLY want to see a review from somebody who was a fan of the book. The book is fantastic as far as I am concerned, and almost all of the criticism I have seen levied at the movie is the same that I saw levied at the book, which makes me think that despite the criticism, I am going to really like it.

    I am a little nervous because the book’s “incoherent” style may not translate well to screen. I would classify it more as a serialized story in one shot. There are a bunch of stories, and all of them have at least SOME connection, but it is not a straight line. It would be more like an expansive video game (maybe he intended that, considering what happens in the story) where there is lots of connected stuff, but it is all divided and spaced out. If you just looked at a couple of pieces (right now I am specifically thinking of Skyrim) they would seem like they were totally disjointed and fractured, but in the context of the whole game you can see why they were all put there.

    I am also really curious about the “racist” ending. If it is the same as the book’s ending, I do not see how it is racist. Race is important in it, true, but that does not make it racist. And maybe the 11 minutes of “rambling dialogue” and “long narratives” included something important, because everything to get the twist in the book was there and was definitely not inexplicable.

    • argentleman

      As a fan of the book, I can say this: it gets the tone completely right. It’s just truncated a lot… basically expect the whole setup to be done totally right, but then it jumps past a lot. I liked it quite a bit, but the entire novel doesn’t make it to the screen. They rarely do.

      I also have no idea what they are talking about with the ‘racist’ ending. It’s straight out of the book, and wasn’t racist there either.

  • G.D.

    I was on the fence about seeing this, but in the end I kind of wish I’d decided on this rather than Lords of Salem.

Serena Whitney