Director: Don Coscarelli
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Running Time: 99 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Editorís Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
The internet is a strange and wonderful place. Itís the easiest way to discover new and fascinating things about the world around you. Some people, like the fine folks at BellaOnline, try to present it in a thoughtful and helpful manner. Others write books that make you laugh and scream in horror. Thatís what Jason Pargin, under the pseudonym David Wong, did when he wrote John Dies at the End, a science-fiction tale about aliens and mind-altering substances. The book was a cult hit, and garnered a sizable fan base. It got so big it caught the attention of director and writer Don Coscarelli, director and writer of such films as Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm, and The Beastmaster. Being a huge Bruce Campbell fan, I had seen Bubba Ho-Tep before, an outlandish story about an aging Elvis fighting alongside a black John F. Kennedy against a reincarnated mummy.
Side note: That is one of the greatest sentences I have ever written.
What makes the world of John Dies at the End turn? Soy Sauce. No, not the delicious fermentation that makes all Asian food taste even better, but a living psychoactive substance that imbues the user with extraordinary temporal powers, or kills them. Thankfully, to the protagonists of the film, the former happens. When on the Sauce, all space and time becomes comprehensible and tangible to the user, and they can also see things that normally were not there. While tripping on the sauce, John and Dave uncover the plot of a malicious alien entity in a parallel universe to destroy the human race.
Unfortunately, the plot of the movie itself is so convoluted that itís difficult to describe here without spoiling things. Suffice to say, the movie sticks as close as it can to the original book, which I highly recommend, without becoming a four-hour movie. That does mean a lot of the complexities and relationships are removed or simplified, which might raise the ire of die-hard fans of the source material.
As far as the players go, Paul Giamatti is amazing as always, and the two guys playing Dave and John, Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes, are good choices to anyone whoís never seen what their real-life personas look like. I end up liking Willamsonís portrayal more Ė Mayes seems a bit more manic than John ever was in the book. There was an aged anger and an impassiveness written into Johnís character that was never there in Mayesís performance.
I might be splitting hairs, but little things like that make this movie yearn for the book. As it always seems, the book is always better than the movie. However, what Coscarelli has done with Parginís novel is awesome, and entirely worth a watch if I havenít scared you away with the review.
I do need to write this in before I finish Ė this movie is NOT for children. Campy, bloody violence, creatively harsh language, and short scenes of excessive nudity are prevalent. John Dies at the End may not be for everyone, but itís perfect for who it is for.
*I watched this movie on Netflix, an online streaming video source I pay a subscription fee for out of my own pocket.*