Monday, April 1, 2013

John Dies at the End

A decade after Bubba Ho-Tep Don Coscarelli is back with another feature based off a cult author’s work that masterfully blends humor and horror. 

John Dies at the End follows our hero Dave Wong and his buddy John as they are forced to fight off and interdimensional invasion.  The invaders are using a new drug known as soy sauce to take over the physical beings of those who take it, allowing them to be controlled by the invaders.  The soy sauce affects everyone differently, so that no encounter with a possessed person is ever the same.

Coscarelli’s film captures the spirit of David Wong’s book incredibly well, and he has great success mixing the horror and comedy elements.  There are moments in the film that are both genuinely creepy and laugh out loud funny.  Don Coscarelli’s infuses the film with a trippy visual flair that adds energy even to some simpler scenes of dialogue.  It also creates a sense that at no point is anyone truly safe. 
The cast is incredibly strong overall with relative new comers Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes giving great grounded performances to balance the absolute chaos that moves around them.  Paul Giamatti plays a newspaper reporter who interviews Dave, and this is the narrative device used to move the story forward.  While this creates a choppy sense of pace at times, it also allows Don Coscarelli who also wrote the screen play to stream line Wong’s novel.  For diehard fans of the book this means great chunks of the novel are just missing.  There is some voice over work by Chase Williamson as Dave, however most of the humorous elements have been cut, and the voice over is used almost exclusively to move the plot forward. 

I stated at times the books comes to a grinding halt, and at 100 minutes these slower elements are nowhere to be found, but many action set pieces are also absent, including my favorite one.  In keeping with the spirit of the book , Don Coscarelli still includes the existential humor that helped to define Wong’s book.    

John Dies at the End is a trippy, creepy existential comedy.  Some fans of the book, will probably be let down by some of the alterations made to make the story more filmable, especially for a smaller budget feature.  Despite this, the movie is wholly enjoyable to those of us with odder sensibilities and I can say I enjoyed every frame of Don Coscarelli’s newest film with a stupid grin on my face. (Review previously posted at Ravenous
Special Features:
Audio commentary with director Don Coscarelli, producer Brad Baruh, Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes 
Deleted scenes 
Behind the Scenes featurette 
Monster Design featurette 
Fangoria interviews with Director Don Coscarelli and Paul Giamatti 
AXS TV: A Look at John Dies at the End 

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