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John Dies at the End

2012 | 99 min | R | 1.78:1

John Dies at the End


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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal

Dark humor25%
Psychological thriller13%



Theatrical release date

 25 January, 2013
 22 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from John Dies at the End Blu-ray

John Dies at the End Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 24, 2013

The title “John Dies at the End” is a clever one, at least before the film begins, promising a cheeky viewing experience with a boldly spoilerific title that presents quite a challenge to the production, tasked with keeping surprises when the very name of the effort gives away the twist. It’s quickly established that “John Dies at the End” isn’t going to be about a character named John, which is the first of many disappointments contained within the movie. I suppose one isn’t supposed take the picture so literally, but when the jokes are leaden, the fantasy mangled by cut-rate visual effects, and the performances rooted in sarcasm, there should be something here worth getting excited about, even if it is just a mischievous title.

A young man with a lacking love life and questionable taste in friends, David (Chase Williamson) is yanked into an unknown realm when his friend, John (Rob Mayes), reveals the secrets of “soy sauce,” a black liquid capable of gifting the user tremendous psychic thought, opening portals to alternate universes, gaining access to all their nefarious creatures. Accidentally injecting a drop of the sauce into his leg, David is sent on a wild journey of thought and heroism, greeting otherworldly beings (Doug Jones), fractured cops (Glynn Thurman), other sauce veterans (Clancy Brown), and a helpful dog named Bark Lee. Panicking over his horrible visions, David looks to center himself with help from John, embarking on a mission to stop a sentient machine named Korrok from invading Earth from a parallel Earth. All the while, David shares his story with reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti), whose skepticism about this particularly tweaked interviewee gradually melts away as the tale unfolds.

Having never read David Wong’s original novel, it’s difficult for me to judge writer/director Don Coscarelli’s adaptation accurately, though it’s obvious the filmmaker had a substantial narrative ball of twine to unwind when dealing with such hallucinatory, darkly comic work. Despite his best ambitions, “John Dies at the End” is a mess, quickly slipping out of Coscarelli’s control as he spends most of the movie attempting to secure the outlandishness of Wong’s work while still shaping a story worth paying attention to. It’s a narrative careening into a hundred different directions, following David’s experiences with and without his soy sauce sensory amplifier, observing our detached hero interact with the vengeful undead, battle giant alien leeches, and use a bratwurst as a cell phone, conversing with John through the power of his super-sized mind. It’s wild, interdimensional material, with Coscarelli adding a slacker tone of sarcasm to David’s character to aid its youthful appeal.

Accepted as individual pieces of the unknown, and “John Dies at the End” could make for a palatable, mildly madcap sit, watching the boys encounter brain-bending experiences and bizarre characters while hopped up on the sauce. As a whole, the picture resembles a party without an invitation, madly dashing from one extreme to the next without fully exploring its characters or turns of plot. Coscarelli hasn’t made a film since 2002’s “Bubba Ho-Tep” and the rustiness shows, displaying such excitement to romp around in Wong’s sandbox that an actual narrative is never formed, only suggested. It’s a punchline in search of a joke, and it’s tiring to watch scenes ramble on without direction, while most stabs at humor are DOA, missing a cast with genuine comic timing. The extreme horror and sci-fi elements are certainly appealing (there’s a fantastic monster movie in here somewhere), but fail to congeal into a feature with an inspired sense of forward momentum.

As the director of “Phantasm,” Coscarelli has managed with limited budgets before, extracting genre holiness with mere nickels. “John Dies at the End” often resembles a glorified YouTube video, finding the helmer’s vision too expansive for the money involved, with dime-store visual effects ruining the berserk vision of it all. It’s a shame to see such poor CGI and greenscreen work diluting the energy of the picture, while the film’s few forays into make-up and practical effects are quite handsome, hinting at bolder visual experience had the production come into serious coin.

“John Dies at the End” is angling to be a cult film, and it almost accomplishes this goal. Offering such strange behavior, most tied to a sci-fi drug, it’s sure to find an audience appreciative of its wily attitude and disjointed storytelling. What Coscarelli has here is intriguing, but too chaotic and incomprehensible to charm in full.

Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck
Director: Don Coscarelli

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John Dies at the End (2012) 15 Jan 29, 2013

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