Apr 27, 2014

Review: John Dies at the End (2012)

Don Coscarelli helms this adaptation of David Wong's comic horror novel into what is a strange, strange journey. I haven't read the source material but I'm guessing that John Dies at the End is just as strange and surreal as its film counterpart. What can definitely be said is that John Dies at the End is pretty entertaining because of how weird and unexpected a lot of what happens is. At the same time though, all this weirdness doesn't seem to lead to very much.

The main character David Wong is trying to avoid being found. According to him, his surname is the most common surname in the world. For him, it's worth the confusion people get when they first meet him and find out he isn't Asian. He recounts the recent paranormal events that he's gone through to journalist Arnie Blondestone, making the movie told mostly by flashback with present day scenes interspersed.


Genre: comedy, horror, sci-fi
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Produced by: Brad Baruh, Don Coscarelli, Andy Meyers, etc.
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Music by: Brian Tyler
Running time: 100 minutes
Production company: M3 Alliance, M3 Creative, Midnight Alliance, etc.
Distributed by: Magnet Releasing, Pandastorm Pictures, Madman Entertainment, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $141,951 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Jimmy Wong, Kevin Michael Richardson, Angus Scrimm, Jonny Weston, Fabianne Therese, Tai Bennett, Allison Weissman



Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes do pretty good work as their characters, especially Williamson who I've never heard of or seen in a movie before. He doesn't have too many credits to his name, but he was a pleasant surprise. Paul Giamatti as Arnie Blondestone is limited in screen time but as always he brings really good presence. All the other minor characters are interesting in their own way and definite props for getting Doug Jones a role without any sort of makeup or prosthetics. His appearance in a movie like John Dies at the End just feels right.

The movie relies on CGI in certain scenes and for the most part it looks and feels low budget. Despite this weakness, Don Coscarelli is able to take away the focus from the subpar effects and I'm not exactly sure how. Probably one thing that helped this along was the sheer ridiculousness of a lot of these scenes and because of how unique these CGI creations in John Dies at the End really are.

The dialogue in John Dies at the End is also a strength. Chase Williamson has the best chance to show that off with interesting and amusing narration. The horror/comedy mashup of JDatE just works even if it's not an especially scary movie or anything since most of the horror is of the gross out variety. It also feels very much like a literary piece at times and I don't mean that in a bad way. David Wong's (the writer) creation definitely sounds like something I should look into for some reading in the future.

Music in a film is always crucial so it needs to be said that Brian Tyler's score does nice work at contributing to the unique atmosphere of John Dies at the End. It's not earth shattering material but it provides the perfect undertones to keep things moving at a frantic pace.

Does all the weirdness and uniqueness lead anywhere? I'm a bit caught in the middle of this debate because I appreciate all the parts of John Dies at the End but not the sum at the end. There doesn't seem to be a goal in the end to all of this madness. It's a fun ride I guess, but that's kind of about it.

All the same, I can't help but appreciate what John Dies at the End is. For whatever reason, I'm just a big lover of weird and bizarre movies. This one isn't the weirdest I've ever seen, but there are definitely some unexpected and surreal moments mixed in with some pretty good performances. John Dies at the End is made to be watched when you're at a loss of what to watch one night and you want something totally different. It's qualities will make themselves known pretty quick in that way.



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