Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli, based on the story by David Wong
Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, and Paul Giamatti
I once had a dream that I was being chased by a pack of meerkats in the middle of a city. I could not outmatch their speed no matter how hard I tried. With every second the entire meerkat assault approached closer. Then, just before they caught up to me, they vanished, except one little meerkat… in a Spider-man costume. He glared at me with a look of disgust and then back-handed me across the face. I popped out of my sleep in a cold sweat. You may ask yourself… Did I really have a dream about a meerkat Spider-Man? And I say to you reader, no. This is just what it feels like to watch John Dies at the End.
Every once in a while a film will come along and unapologetically deliver a nonsensical narrative in a victorious fashion. John Dies at the End doesn’t care what you think. If John Dies at the End had shits to give, it would laugh at you, steal your girlfriend, have sex with her, and then send you a letter of regret with a sextape of the entire experience. Despite the title, you will not expect the outcome of the movie. I’ve seen a lot of films in my lifetime but this is the most batshit crazy experience since the release of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There is no proper way to review a movie of this species. Therefore, I must deliver a strange review for an even stranger film.
The film focuses around the character Dave (Williamson) whose world has flipped upside down thanks to a drug known as the “Soy Sauce.” His friend John (Mayes) buys the “Sauce” from a local Jamaican guy who claims he is psychic. After using the drug, John loses his mind and begins to have weird hallucinatory visions himself. Dave comes to help his close friend after receiving a strange phone call from John during his episode. While helping John, Dave accidentally stabs himself with the “Soy Sauce” syringe. Dave and John together journey into a world of numerous dimensions where evil lurks and nothing is what it seems.
Watching the experience that is John Dies at the End is kind of like reading a Chuck Pahlaniuk novel during a peyote binge. The film handles its ideas rather well with creating a sense of not knowing what is actually real. Every second a new twist is thrown at you. Once you think you have the “Soy Sauce” figured out, it then takes a right turn and “nukes the fridge.” The result keeps you guessing until the end on where the hell the story is heading.
I’ve heard many claim that this film is disjointed in story development. This is assuming that the movie wants the viewer to connect things together at all. I find it funny to hear this complaint when moments in the movie make it quite clear that you are deliberately being mind raped. For example, there is a moment in the film where a character is utilizing a bratwurst as a cellphone. Disjointed? No shit. The film’s narrative is a little too random in areas but it’s quite clear that it is the intent of the story. The one criteria that did bother me was the low quality special effects. It’s understandable with a film with this budget why it was weak in some areas, but the fact I could see the “green screen” outline at some points took me out of the experience.
The cast is exceptional, especially the lead Chase Williamson, who plays the main role of Dave. Paul Giamatti brings a huge presence as the character Arnie Blondestone, a journalist listening to Dave’s absurd tale. Also, Rob Mayes as Dave’s best friend John brings great chemistry to the relationship. The two of them together reminded me of the guys from the show Supernatural towards the finale. Also, a big honorable mention for Doug Jones (Pan’s Labrynth, Hellboy) as a character I will not disclose.
Overall, John Dies at the End is a movie made for a specific cult following. Does it make sense all the way through? No, but it’s not trying to. Just sit back, relax, and prepare for a shotgun blast to the senses. Oh, and do not forget… Beware the soy sauce!