Follow @Mr_McCrackelz

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

John Dies at the End Review: This movie is full of awesome, seriously dude, don't miss it.

Have you ever talked a physicist down from a bad salvia trip? Because that's what this movie feels like. It waxes poetic about interconnected worlds, the finality of death, the perspective of eternity by a super computer, and flying, screaming, mustache monsters.

The adaption of David Wong's opus "John Dies at the End" is refreshing to say the least. This is a bargain basement film to be sure, but if you saw Bubba Ho Tep (required viewing for any Bruce Cambell fan) you know exactly what to expect from John Dies as well as it's director Don Coscarelli. Well... not everything. This is a stupendously weird movie with a very straight face and some people may not realize that its part of the joke. To borrow a tired phrase, this isn't funny "ha ha" but I promise you'll be smiling half the time if you give it a chance.

David Wong is the son of a dead beat dad and a druggie, spiritualist, cannibal, mother who spent her welfare check every month on "Black Candles" (is that a Jack Daniels joke?). What does that have to do with the overarching story of an interdimensional hallucinogenic called soy sauce? Nothing. In fact, nothing in this film has much to do with anything...until it does. The story is all over the place and if you stop trying to take notes and just go with it, you'll be much more forgiving of the limp finale. Though I promise its still a fun scene with a cameo from Kevin Michael Richardson who obviously makes everything better.

"The next person that calls me a low rent R-patz is getting cut"

But while the special effects do their job they will not blow your mind. This is as shoe string as budgets get and its a testament to the material that everything it tries up until the big bad is so convincing. But why? The cast is why. I'm sure you've seen Paul Giamatti in the trailer and I'll have you know everyone else is up to his caliber... actually that's pushing it, but not as far as you'd think. Chase Williamson as Dave has a grip on droll absurdity that may not approach a young Bill Murray but is definitively a stellar effort with near impenetrable material. Rob Mayes as John is much more interesting than the annoying best friend he could have been and does somersaults with both prat falling drug overdose scenes as well as long winded exposition. That is thankless work. Doug Jones and Clancy Brown have tiny, but likable cameos and Giamatti has a deeper story arc then you'd think. So yeah, genre comedy like this rarely sees acting this good outside of an Edgar Wright joint. And anyone who knows me, knows I love me a flick done the wright way.

Did I ever tell you about that soul crushing boondoggle called The Goon?
I'm not going to be the guy who says the "book was better." In fact, it's my least favorite thing to say about an adaption and in my opinion, one of the laziest criticisms movies get. The book is wonderful (here, go buy it!) and the film is wonderful for different reasons. Yes, vast swaths of it are missing (this isn't a mini series) yes, the dog's name is different, and sure, the ending cuts a ton of corners. But there's no budgetary restriction on page counts; and comparing a book to a movie as if they are similar creative processes is naive at best and close minded at worst. Only when an adaptation is patently dismissive of the source and makes changes for the sake of marketability do I think "the book was better" ever holds water. People complain about skimmed subplots or several characters being condensed into one, but there are almost always damn good reasons why this happens. Publishers don't pay more for books that have too many characters with speaking roles, movie producers do. John Dies is both faithful and loving to the book's cadence and humor, which before I broke down and watched it, I was convinced it was unfilmable. I hesitate to use the word flabbergasted, not because its dishonest, but because that word is stupid.

In the end, John Dies was so breezy and likable, yet so high mined and funny, that I wish this was the pilot of a cable series than a standalone feature. They say you should always leave a audience wanting more, and on that note, I pray some day down the line I'll write a review about a movie full of spiders.


  1. Hmmmm now I have to watch this. I stayed away from it because I figured it wouldn't be worth checking out without knowledge of the book - but now I've gotta'.