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 Review: John Dies at the End

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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Review: John Dies at the End   Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:02 pm



John Dies at the End
Released Dec. 27, 2012 on VOD and select theatres on Jan 25th, 2013
Written and directed for the screen by Don Coscarelli
Adapted from a novel by David Wong (Jason Pargin)
Featuring: Paul Giamatti, Chase Williamson, Clancy Brown, Rob Mayes, Fabianne Therese and with a Cameo by Angus Scrimm (Very Happy!)
Viewed on YouTube VOD
Watch the Trailer!



Oh boy, I've been waiting to see this one! The pseudo-novel John Dies at the End is a cult favourite in this household, my wife introduced me to it back in 2010 and I immediately fell in love with it's mixture of horror tribute and offbeat, dark humour punctuated with a slacker mentality. Admittedly I was skeptical when a film was first announced, the book was done in a cut-up style and felt like a series of smaller short stories contained in a meaty wrap around which... actually is exactly what it was, as it was patched together from articles that author Jason Pargin (Under pseudonym David Wong) wrote many years ago that got popular with his friends but the style doesn't really suit itself to the film format, but the moment I heard who was attached to the picture - I got excited. Don Coscarelli made the first 3 Phantasm films, which I absolutely adore (I know he made #4 as well, but that one was awful.), not to mention the more recent cult classic Bubba Ho-Tep which admittedly was much in the same vein and spirit as John Dies which in a way made Coscarelli perfect for the picture. And do you know what? I FUCKING LOVED THIS MOVIE!! Yes, it has a few problems that we shall delve into - but I am also here to spread the word, because the more people that read the book and see the film the better. Anywho, on with the review!

John Dies at the End tells the story of grumpy slacker David Wong and his more upbeat slacker buddy John Cheese and how they came into contact with a mysterious 'drug' known as The Soy Sauce, and how it forever changed their lives as we know it. The Soy Sauce is a mysterious black substance that appears to have a life of its own, and each hit grants the consumer incredible powers including but not limited too Extra Sensory Perception, Foresight into the near future, the ability to psychically communicate through various objects (Including a Bratwurst, if necessary.), and the ability to see monsters and dimensions from the darkest corners of our mind. But there's a catch: The night John first discovered the Soy Sauce, ever other person who took the drug died, including the dealer - who exploded and then released a strange swarm of white objects. Soon David accidentally takes the Sauce as well (Never leave a tainted needle in your pocket, even if it has a cap and especially if the drug is alive and wants in.) and soon they find themselves uncovering an insidious scheme from another dimension to take over the world from the inside out, led by the mysterious beast known only as Korrok the Consumer.

As I stated above, I had a hard time imagining JDatE as a film due to it's many short story like clusters, not to mention the fact that it is divided between two separate internal "books" - They China Food! and Korrok which wildly vary in style and content. Thankfully, the film agrees with most fans of JDatE: They China Food! was the superior half of the book, and the film primarily adapts the best parts of They China Food! rather than the somewhat more disjointed and sloppy Korrok, though they do adapt the ending of Korrok since afterall it is the ending to the story set up in They China Food! Coscarelli, who adapted the story himself, does a wonderful job streamlining this story and I'll actually admit - even after reading the book twice, the film's more traditional narrative structure actually managed to ease some confusion over parts of the last act - mainly in explaining just what Korrok actually is and why he exists; and Coscarelli just did a good job overall, even with a large portion of the book excised (Smartly though, as stated above) it manages to completely retain everything that made the book a joy to read: The humour is low brow but sharp and timed perfectly, there are lots of very imaginative and fun ideas on display and while never truly "scary" it does occasionally have a sincere atmosphere that can send a few small chills up your spine, largely due to the firm grasp on the surreal - an ideal that can taint something that might seem silly at first but is for some reason, unsettling when you see it applied to living tissue. Wong's narration is sharp and catching, and while Chase Williamson isn't precisely a great actor - he does feel like he has the right amount of laziness and grumpiness that defined Wong's character and Rob Mayes manages to do a little better overall and captures the manic energy of John's character and even some minor characters are played well too, Albert Marconi was probably my favourite ancillary character if not solely because I adore Clancy Brown to death. Angus Scrimm also makes a cameo, which should tickle fans of Phantasm pink even though I'm sad he didn't play a larger role in the film.

On the subject of actors and characters though, there is admittedly one part that suffers greatly from having excised so much from Korrok and that is the character of Amy Sullivan, in the film played by actress Fabianne Therese. Therese is pretty and she's not necessarily "bad," but the problem is there's nothing to her character in the film. At all. Amy didn't have a very large part in They China Food! but when Korrok came by, she actually became one of my favourite characters in the book - a snarky yet light hearted and quite able red head with a missing hand that can somehow deal a fuck ton of damage if need be. This is where Coscarelli's script drops the ball the most, because Amy is too important to the story to remove, yet he was somehow unable to find a way to flesh out her character during the bulk of the film which, with some patch work, could have easily been done. Sure it would have been a large change - but it would have made her character feel necessary, as it stands there's not much reason for her to be in the film other than one single scene where her prosthetic hand is necessary for the protagonists to progress, and apparently this is also the only reason David and Amy fall in love. Their relationship in the book was odd, to be sure, but when the book calmed down it actually felt realistic and sweet - and it also helped David relieve some of his grumpiness and show a more playful side. It's a shame Coscarelli couldn't find a way to do her character right, since she was such a large part of the book.

There are other small problems, admittedly the effects are disappointing in some regards. There are a few decent practical effects, the most impressive being the Meat Monster at the beginning of the film (I absolutely cracked up seeing the neck of the Turkey jerk around and flap about as a mouth) and there's an odd spider like creature that appears briefly that also looks pretty gross and creepy, even if it saddens me to know that it replaces my favourite monster from the book - The Wig Monster. However the rest of the film primarily uses CG, even with the gore and I can understand using CG for some parts like when you see Korrok, but other times it's unnecessary - and I know it can't entirely be budget because the film had a much higher budget than any of the Phantasm films and yet their effects were actually quite good. It's not a film that needs tonnes of special effects, but still - where they were needed, they mostly disappoint.

But in the end - those are mostly nitpicks. John Dies at the End is easily one of the most entertaining movies in recent memory. Will it appeal to everyone? No. Will it appeal to fans of horror-comedy and slacker comedies like Clerks? Yes, a million times yes, and it fits nicely in the Cult film Niche and I'm hoping it will soon be accepted into the pantheon of cult classics, like Bubba Ho-Tep and Phantasm before it. In fact it is of note: If you liked Bubba Ho-Tep, you'll like this one too. I guarantee it. The film is hilarious, stylish, and retains the essence of the book. It also has one of the most hilariously fucked up and morbid "Cartoons" ever. The film would be worth it for that scene alone, even if I can't describe it without spoiling it. I highly recommend John Dies at the End for anyone who wants a damn good time and a romp through surrealistic dark comedy.

FINAL SCORE (Out of a possible 4)
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wildhoney66

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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:14 am

i hadn't realized this was even out! now i want him to do the lat Phantasm before we loose Angus Scrimm!
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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:25 am

wildhoney66 wrote:
now i want him to do the lat Phantasm before we loose Angus Scrimm!

I know. I've heard it's mainly that he's had a hard time securing funds for the project, but I'm hoping that this will draw enough of an audience to help Coscarelli fund Phantasm V. I have faith we could have one last great Phantasm film, #IV was a huge disappointment - but at the same time I knew it was rushed and had a lot of trouble with its own finances. And Scrimm still has it in him to be the Tall Man, his cameo in John Dies is a minute and a half at most - yet he managed to give the most threatening "I'm not going to lie, YOU'RE FUCKED!" I've ever seen D: The Tall Man was my boogeyman growing up since Phantasm was the first R rated horror movie my mum let me see (I think I was 6), so I kind of have a soft spot for him and the Phantasm series and creating my longlasting fear of Morticians.
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Subterfuge

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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:27 am


Hey thanks for the recommendation, I had never heard of that film ( or the book ) before. I'll try and check it out!
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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:40 am

Subterfuge wrote:

Hey thanks for the recommendation, I had never heard of that film ( or the book ) before. I'll try and check it out!

No problem. You really should give it a chance; the book and film are great. It is still a situation where the book is better than the film, but at the same time an instance where the film ended up better than I could have imagined it would and it does patch a couple of the books flaws while retaining its best moments. Here's to the films success, Phantasm V, and hopefully we'll also see Coscarelli and Wong team up again to adapt John Dies' sequel, "This Book is Full of Spiders!"
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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:58 pm

wildhoney66 wrote:
i hadn't realized this was even out! now i want him to do the lat Phantasm before we loose Angus Scrimm!

I rewatched JDATE in HD with a friend, and I noticed this easter egg. I really hope this is a little confirmation for fans!! Also, I want to see "Irate Bovine" for some reason. I'm just using a link since it's a big picture, but you need to see the HD image to notice it. http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/353/ravager.png
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shadowdancer21b

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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Tue Jan 15, 2013 3:57 pm

I like the book so I'm there.
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PostSubject: Re: Review: John Dies at the End   Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:17 am

im always up for some don coscarelli.
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