John Dies At The End

Directed by: Don Coscarelli

Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Glynn Turman, Clancy Brown

Happy New Year movie lovers!  John Dies at the End is the first movie I am reviewing for 2013, and it is kicking my movie year off to an interesting start.  A film that opens with its lead character beheading someone with an ax and pondering in a detached fashion whether an ax remains the same after it has been broken certainly gets your attention quickly.  This horror-comedy-action flick is not like any other film that I have seen in recent years.

John Dies at the End is based on a novel by David Wong (aka Jason Pargin).  It tells the story of Dave Wong (Chase Williamson) and his best friend John (Rob Mayes).  Dave meets reporter Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) in a restaurant to discuss his life story because he wants the world to know the truth.  Dave impresses Blondestone with his unique powers--Dave can see the future and the past. 

Dave explains to Blondestone that the journey began when John and Dave were in high school and they were at a local party.  Flashback to the party--a group of teens are partying to John's rock band.  A Jamaican man is performing magical tricks, levitating, and attempting to convince everyone that time is an ocean. Dave is “creeped” out by the Jamaican and does not hang around for too long.  However, many of the teens stay and take a drug called Soy Sauce.  Later that night, Dave’s world changes forever. 

John calls Dave begging him to come over to his place.  When Dave arrives, John is completely high, erratic, and seeing aliens.  Dave confiscates John’s gun, the needle of the Soy Sauce and tries to get John to the hospital.  While dealing with John's crisis, Dave is accidentally stabbed with the needle of Soy Sauce.  Dave then starts tripping as time melts away and he can see things happen before they actually happen.  His night gets even weirder when he is taken to a police station by a detective (Glynn Turman) who advises him that every teen that went to the party that night is either dead or missing, except for Dave and John.  The rest of the film tells the story of Dave and John’s adventure.

John Dies at the End has a lot of potential.  I truly had some laugh out loud moments as these two bozos, for lack of a better word, casually deal with an alien invasion while on the Sauce.  There are some moments of pure comedy such as when Dave quotes a line from New Jack City like it is an old American proverb.  There is another scene early in the film when a doorknob turns into a penis during an alien fight, and the characters’ reactions had me in stitches. 

Unfortunately, the film was incredibly and deliberately uneven.  The story jumps around in time and content to an almost dizzying degree.   There were so many different things popping out, I felt like I was on the Soy Sauce.  I am all for an adventurous movie viewing, but this just was all over the map.  I felt like I would have benefitted significantly from having read the novel before seeing the film. Watching John Dies at the End is like being on a rollercoaster ride that is fun in patches, unpleasantly bumpy in others, but somewhat of a letdown altogether.  It just did not live up to what it could have been.  

John Dies at the End earns a 0.09% rating.  You will already feel like you’re on the Soy Sauce watching this one, but a cosmo wouldn’t hurt.