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John Dies at the End(2012)
It's a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. On the street they call it Soy Sauce, and users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't.
For more about John Dies at the End and the John Dies at the End Blu-ray release, see John Dies at the End Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on April 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writer: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Doug Jones (I), Daniel Roebuck
» See full cast & crew
John Dies at the End Blu-ray Review
We all die at the end, I guess.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, April 4, 2013
I hardly know where to begin—this film is so bug-nuts crazy—so I'll start with the beginning. John Dies at the End opens with small-town midwestern college-aged slacker and unlikely exorcist David Wong (Chase Williamson) posing a zen koan-style riddle to us, the audience. Say you were chopping the head off of a neo-Nazi with a hand ax—we watch David doing precisely this—when the handle breaks. What do you do? Go down to the hardware store and get them to attach a new handle, of course. A few months later, you chip the head of the ax whilst bludgeoning a fanged, Slither-like lamprey to death. What do you do? Once again, trot down to the store and get the blade replaced this time. Now, when the zombified skinhead busts into your house a year later—his head sewn back on with nylon weed-whacker thread—and says that the ax you're holding up defensively in your hand is the same ax you previously used to kill him, is he right?
If you're philosophically minded, you might recognize this as a modified, monster movie version of Theseus' Parodox—or the Shipbuilder's Paradox—a metaphysical thought experiment originally proposed by Plutarch, inquiring whether a ship that has had all of its component parts replaced is still the same vessel. Is it? Does it matter? And what does this have to do with the rest of John Dies at the End? Well, depending on what sort of viewer you are, it'll either put you in the mindset to question everything about the film, or else encourage you to turn off your brain—which is probably already hurting by this point—and go with the absurdist sci-fi/horror flow. This is a bonkers movie that deals with ghosts and meat monsters, organic artificial intelligence and traversable rifts in space-time, and it really doesn't make a lot of sense.
After this prologue, the film proper opens with David—looking jittery, and having informed us that he just "dosed five hours ago"—sitting in a Chinese restaurant across from the shabby, corduroy-attired journalist Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). David has a story to tell—a fantastical, improbably story—and he's chosen Arnie as the guy to tell it to the world, a world that was only recently saved from certain destruction thanks to David, his dopey pal John Cheese (Rob Mayes), and a dog named Bark Lee. His tale is not easily summarized, so I'll just give the gist. After meeting a dread-headed Jamaican psychic-cum-drug dealer who goes by "Robert Marley" at a party, David and John are injected—the former accidentally, the latter intentionally—with a new drug known only as Soy Sauce, a a tar-like black liquid that seems to have a mind of its own. (Because it does.) The drug gives them various unexpected powers, not limited to seeing the future, speaking to the dead, and the ability to see inter-dimensional beings, like the long-legged scorpion with a brain for a torso that takes up residence in John's apartment, or the alien-in-human-disguise Robert North (Doug Jones), who takes a keen interest in David for as-yet-unknown reasons.
When "Robert Marley" turns up dead in a trailer park—his body exploded into fleshy bits—Detective Appleton (Glynn Turman) suspects the two boys and hauls them into the police station for questioning. And this is where it starts to get weird. Like Schrödinger's cat, we learn that John may or may not be dead, but either way, he helps David escape by telepathically communicating through a bratwurst. Along with David's girlfriend Amy (Fabianne Therese), their pal Fred (Jimmie Wong), and their wannabe gangster frenemy Justin (Jonny Weston)—who happens to be possessed by a demon named "Shitload"—the guys set off for the abandoned Mall of the Dead, where they find a "ghost door" that can only be opened with Amy's phantom limb. (Did I mention she's an amputee?) If you can believe it, it gets even more bizarre from here on out, as the John Edward-esque TV medium Marconi (Clancy Brown) helps them enter a parallel universe where topless women worship at the Church of Dave and John, and where a tentacled artificial intelligence is determined to learn how to cross into our own dimension to expand its knowledge.
Phew. If ever the word "unpredictable" applied to a film, it's this one. Directed by Don Coscarelli and based on the novel of the same name by cracked.com writer Jason Pargin—using the first-person pseudonym David Wong, his main character—John Dies at the End goes bizarre immediately but somehow manages to one-up itself at every twist of the nigh-incomprehensible plot, which comes to resemble a mashup of H.P. Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs. It's Naked Lunch on Scooby-Snacks, Cthulu with quantum physics—a genre-warping horror comedy that's geeky and pop-culture literate and endearingly silly. The cult potential is strong with this one, which is also to say that it's something of an acquired taste, since the hard-to-follow story and general weirdness may be a bit much for some audiences. A good litmus test for whether or not you'll like it is your opinion of Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-Tep, the wacko 2002 horror-comedy starring Bruce Campbell as the still-alive Elvis, rescuing nursing home residents from a re-animated Egyptian mummy. The two films have a similar sense of non-stop kookiness, and they'd make for one hell of a double feature. Also, like most of the entries in Coscarelli's low-budget oeuvre—he's the man behind the long-running Phantasm series— John Dies at the End is made with primarily practical effects, so you can expect lots of latex and rubber and tangibly sticky gore wherever possible, with CGI as more of a supplement than a crutch. I might say "they don't make 'em like they used to," but in the case of the singular John Dies at the End, I don't think "they" have ever made one exactly like this.
John Dies at the End Blu-ray, Video Quality
Style-wise, John Dies at the End looks like the low-budget film that it is, but there's little technically wrong with the film's 1080p/AVC- encoded Blu-ray presentation. Shot digitally with the Red One camera, the image is nicely resolved, with very strong detail in closeups, revealing facial and clothing textures and the intricacies of the rubber-suited meat monster. Any real softness here is just a momentary focusing issue. The color grading generally looks good too—saturation is strong but not overblown, skin tones are consistent—but there are a few scenes where the white balance seems a little off, with the picture shifted a bit too far into yellow. (And I'm not talking about the scenes set in the alternate universe, which feature an intentionally wacko color scheme.) Otherwise, no issues here. Highlights are never overblown and black levels are deep without becoming oppressive. Source noise is minimal during brighter scenes and although it spikes during darker sequences, it's never harsh or particularly noticeable. There are no problems with DNR, edge enhancement, or any of the usual picture quality culprits either.
John Dies at the End Blu-ray, Audio Quality
John Dies at the End skitters onto Blu-ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that's clear and dynamic and fairly engaging. While the bulk of the sound is pushed out of the front bank of speakers, the rear channels frequently ooze with quiet ambience—crickets, distant sirens, room noise—and projectile vomit occasional effects, like meat spattering in all directions, screams, or the massive explosion that follows a car's gas tank being blasted with a shotgun. Iron Man 3 composer Brian Tyler provides a score that complements—rather than overpowers—the onscreen action, and dialogue rests on top of it all, consistently clean and comprehensible. There are no dub options on the disc, but there are optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, which appear in easy-to-read white lettering.
John Dies at the End Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
John Dies at the End Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If John Dies at the End were an acronym, it would definitely be "WTF." Weird and silly and funnier than you might expect, it's another instant cult hit—if an acquired taste—from director Don Coscarelli, the odd-ball horror auteur behind Phantasm, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep. Fans of his previous work will definitely be on-board with the new film's tone, and the movie also seems like a detailed love letter to readers of Jason Pargin/David Wong's novel. The really strange thing is that I've read scathing reviews of the incomprehensible story and glowing praise for its out-there comic inventiveness, and both are right. This is one of those films that you take as is and enjoy for what it is. Magnolia's Blu-ray release makes this easy, with a strong audio/video presentation and a few fun extras. Recommended!
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John Dies at the End Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: April 2-9 - March 31, 2013
For the week of April 2nd, Magnolia Pictures is bringing John Dies at the End to Blu-ray. The film is an adaptation of the cult horror novel, which - as developed by David Wong (the pseudonym of Cracked senior editor Jason Pargin) - does not immediately lend itself ...
• John Dies at the End Blu-ray Detailed - March 19, 2013
Magnolia Pictures has detailed the upcoming Blu-ray release of writer/director Don Coscarelli's John Dies at the End, an adaptation of David Wong's audacious trans-genre horror novel of the same name. The film stars Rob Mayes, Chase Williamson, Paul Giamatti and ...
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