John Dies at the End (2013)


If this was released on 4/20, the box-office would explode.

Told in flashback with a reporter named Arnie (Paul Giamatti), this is the story of Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who are two slackers who do nothing with their lives except act as if they kill monsters, all for the greater-good of society. They soon find themselves all caught up in a whirlwind of inter-dimensional activity after their exposure to a drug dubbed “soy sauce” that allows them to have unusual powers and wild visions.

The plot synopsis up-above may not be the best in the whole, entire world, mainly because this movie doesn’t really seem to follow a regular structure that most movies out there follow. That being said, you can probably already tell whether or not this is your type of movie by the look of the trailer, the poster, or even the first 5 minutes in which we get a random sequence of some dude talking about chopping a person’s head-off. It’s quick, witty, and really humorous  and I knew if that’s how the rest of the film was going to play-out, then I was in for a total treat from beginning-to-end, no drugs required. However, by the 30-minute mark, it became quite apparent to me that drugs were going to need to be acquired. Damn my sobriety!

Writer/director Don Coscarelli is mostly known for his dip in cult-films that people either love, or absolutely  positively despise. I guess it all depends on the type of person who’s viewing it and that’s why I may have been a bit shaky about seeing what he did with this material here. The thing is: it seems like this guy knows what he’s doing, how he wants to do it, and why he’s doing it, but the final-product doesn’t make it seem so. In the beginning of the movie, everything seemed so wacky, wild, and insane, but made absolute sense as to why, but by the latter-acts, things start to change and it almost becomes like a desperate-act for Coscarelli to keep things up-and-about, by throwing in random-sequence-after-random-sequence.

Yeah, something tells me they wouldn't be friends, if this took place in real-life.
Yeah, something tells me they wouldn’t be friends if this took place in real-life.

It makes sense why this movie feels like it is one, huge drug-ride from hell, because the truth is: it is one huge, drug-ride from hell. The main characters are constantly on drugs throughout the whole movie and it gives us a reason and explanation as to why everyone and everything is so incredibly strange, but there comes a point where it feels like we need more than just random, crazy shite. It almost feels like we need plot, reasoning, structure, emotions, characters, and most importantly: more fun.

That’s the weirdest-problem I had with this movie: just not enough fun. I’m not going to lie, there were times I really felt like I was having a ball with this material because I never, ever had a clue as to where it was going to go, and didn’t want to know until it finally showed-up on-screen and blasted my mind away. But then there were other times where I felt criminally-bored by the proceedings up on-screen, and that’s because the movie begins to focus on too much of it’s plot, without any of the “fun-element” going for it. It may sound strange having me complain about this movie focusing on too much of a plot, considering I said it needed more of that, but the complain I am centering more towards is that the shit just does not make sense, and whether or not it was supposed to, really, really goes over my head.

Having the interview with the journalist at least gives the film some sort of easy passage-way in having us understand what the hell is going on and what’s next to come, but that’s only good for about a-half-hour. Then, after that minute-mark, it all goes downhill and really seems to get lost in it’s own exposition, without ever being able to bring itself back-up to life. The idea of having soy sauce be your main drug of choice that fucks with these people’s minds and have them see a bunch of insane things makes sense and is good, that is until it starts to get out of control and make it seem like the soy sauce itself is more than just a drug that makes you imagine things, it actually has the ability to give you powers only Clark Kent could dream-of. It all gets to a point of where I couldn’t buy into it anymore and I just wish that Coscarelli decided to relax with the plot, and allow more fun to be had here. Is there such a problem with wanting that when you see a movie? Especially one with Paul Giammatti?

Speaking of Giamatti (the dude also produced), anybody going in and expecting him to do his own thing, left this material up from hell’s gate, and give it a sort of levity, are going to be very disappointed coming out. All he does here is play the journalist with a gullible sense of well-being, and sometimes, act a bit snarky like most journalists do. It’s nice to see Giamatti show-up in “different” material like this and really expand his comfort-zone, but when he’s given about 15-minutes of screen-time, it just feels like a total waste of an amazing and reliable actor that, in my eyes, can do no wrong. Yes, that even includes Lady in the Water.

Wish they actually sold masks like these. Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?
Halloween costume for 2013, anyone?

Instead of giving the spot-light to an actor as talented as Giamatti, the movie instead focuses most of it’s attention on Chase Williamson, a new-comer that I think has a future of bigger, and brighter things. Apparently this was Williamson’s first, ever movie and for a virgin who’s just getting his cherry popped: the guy leaves a lasting-impression (sort of like the time I lost mine). The character he plays could have been one that is absolutely annoying and terribly one-note, but Williamson always seems to be one-step ahead of that and makes this guy into one of your typical, slacker/stoner characters you see in movies like this, but instead, give him more charm and wit. In somebody else’s hands, this role could have really been cringe-inducing to watch, but Williamson gives it his all and makes this flick his bitch. Not sure whether or not that’s a good thing, but for a first-time, major IMDB credit: it’s pretty damn impressive.

The same can’t quite be said for the other-half of the duo, Rob Mayes as the titular John. It’s not that Mayes is bad in this movie or anything, it’s just that his role is deuchy and stud-like, that he comes-off more like a frat-guy that likes to take hallucinogens, instead of a slacker-nerd that enjoys hunting monsters and solving strange problems. Together, they form a solid-duo that I could see kicking ass and taking names, the completely stoned-way, but when it’s just them hanging-out and doing their thing; Dave was a lot cooler and more interesting than that d-bag named John, who just so happened to have the movie named after him.

Consensus: In order to watch and actually enjoy John Dies at the End, I guess you need to have an acquired taste for the material as it is, but even if you are looking for a fun, wacky, and wild trip that is all about no-holds-barred entertainment, then you still may be wanting more. Who knows though! Go out, get stoned, and watch it. Just don’t say you heard that from me.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just wait till he hears the box-office returns on this one. Mr. Paul won't be smiling any longer.
Just wait till he sees the box-office returns. Mr. Paul won’t be smiling any longer.
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12 comments

  1. Interesting to read, thanks. I (just about!) enjoyed Bubba Ho-tep so I think I might give this a go, but rental like you suggest, and perhaps a long, long time in the future!

  2. I believe this is based on a book written by one of the regulars over at Cracked.com. If you like their kind of humor, you would probably like this movie. Personally, whenever I go to Cracked, I usually end up skimming the articles because they are often far too long and lose their comedic edge. Sounds like this movie has the exact same problem.

  3. I am glad that I am not the only one who isn’t so up this movie’s ass just because it has a link to cracked.com. The book was fantastic but there are just some things that shouldn’t/can’t be filmed especially on as low of a budget as this one was filmed. The cgi was awful and there were a lot of very good creepy setpieces from the book that they just plain missed out on so yeah they should feel lucky you gave the film a 5/10. Great Review keep up the good work!

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